Low spending, mechanisation the major issues at continental agric summit

Thursday September 6 2018


A farmer waters her seedlings. PHOTO | FILE 

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Africa must increase its expenditure on agriculture in order to transform the lives of majority of its people and ensure food security to end rampant poverty, experts have said.

The message was directed squarely to both government leaders and the private sector across the continent, on Wednesday, at the ongoing African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Kigali, Rwanda.

Some of important topics will seek solutions to why the quality of seed is continuously underestimated in the continent’s seed value chain, yet other measures like irrigation and fertilization rely on the quality of seed to realize their full potential.

The 2018 AGRF will also be exploited as a platform for global and African leaders to brainstorm plans to increase average government expenditure by governments on agriculture.

The previous edition hosted in Nairobi in 2016, saw African governments and business leaders pledge investments of about $30 billion development of agriculture, support of small-holder farmers, agribusiness and food-chains on the continent.

Business plan

At that Nairobi summit, Rwanda revealed that it had completed a five year agriculture business plan worth US $25 million business plan that will run till 2020, which is financed by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

Despite signs of general economic growth across Africa, the continent must improve its food security status and increase investments in agriculture to sustain that growth, Agnes Kalibata, President of AGRA told Rwanda Today in an exclusive interview.

“Business as usual will not achieve our goals; we must do more and do it more successfully. To this day, Africa still produces less on agriculture land because mechanisation is still very low. We must scale up mechanisation and use high quality seeds across Africa,” she said.

“Both governments and private sectors must use the new opportunities before us to improve agriculture and deploy solutions faster that allow the continent to leapfrog.”

Dr Kalibata said small holder farmers in Africa constantly suffer low incomes and poor living standards yet they provide over 80 percent of the food and agricultural products consumed across the continent.

She admitted that Africa generally lacks readily available data on agriculture, and that sometimes government data conflicts that of researchers and international organizations.

“But on a good note, we are seeing more commitment by governments to increase agriculture funding. For example in 2016, the Kenyan government committed Ksh200 million as a fund to the youth engaged in agriculture value chain, and this is something that is working well for the country and for the youth,” she said.

This year’s host of AGRF, Rwanda, was recently recognized by the African Union as a top performer in prioritizing agriculture, improving farmers’ incomes and food security.

At the Kigali summit, African governments will be reminded of their commitments to increase agriculture budgets to at least 10 percent of a country’s annual budget, something that majority of them are yet to implement.

The forum will also seek about $20 billion investments into agriculture from the private sector, as well as launch innovations in agricultural financing such as risk-sharing loan facilities for farmers.

Off track

Only 20 African states are on track to achieve commitments set out in the Malabo Declaration on agriculture advancement, with, Rwanda leading the top 10 best performers.

On the AU scorecard, Rwanda is followed by Mali, Morocco, Ethiopia, Togo, Malawi, Kenya, Mauritania, Burundi and Uganda.

Rwanda allocated Rwf124 billion (about $141 million) to agriculture in its 2018/19 annual budget, with plans to increase it to Rwf161 billion by 2020.

Kenya allocated KSh25billion ($248 million) to the agricultural sector in its 2018/19 budget, which is about 3.5 percent of the country’s budget.

Its neighbour Uganda allocated Shs892b, (about $237 million), an increase of Shs27billion, from the previous year.

Tanzania slashed its budget allocation to agriculture to TzShs170 billion (about $74 million) in the 2018/19 fiscal year from Shs215 billion the previous year, which amounts to less than 1 percent of the country’s national budget.

The AU Maputo Declaration of 2003 calls on African nations to allocate 10 percent of government expenditures to agriculture and rural development.