Myth vs reality WHICH PATHWAYS FOR AGRICULTURE

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The world faces very significant changes over the next few decades to produce the volume and quality of nutritious food to feed a global population heading for 10 billion people.

Africa has embarked on a process of economic transformation. This process has seen solid and sustained growth over a decade, but it has been uneven and without a sufficiently firm foundation, and it is not-by any estimation-complete.

Agriculture, a current item on the African and international  development agendas is at the heart of Africa’s development: 7 in every 10 Africans rely on agriculture for their livelihoods, their jobs, business and food consumption. Yet, yields remain low in comparison to those in Asian and Latin American countries, leaving many smallholder farmers living in poverty. Furthermore, Africa’s rich agricultural resources are being depleted through poor management and climate change. Levels of investment in the sector – by both African governments and international development partners – have been inadequate. It is urgent to increase sustainable agricultural production, improve the efficiency of agribusiness and enhance the incomes for those working in the sector.

While Africa has enjoyed impressive growth rates for over a decade, this growth has barely touched the millions living on the land. Africa has yet to experience the agricultural miracle that has transformed other developing regions.

Africa continued to show steady growth in agricultural value added. The continent as a whole did not reach the Maputo Declaration target of 6 percent annual agricultural growth, although 11 individual countries met the target during 2008–2015. Similarly, Africa as a continent did not meet the Maputo Declaration target of allocating 10 percent of public expenditure to agriculture. Absolute levels of agricultural expenditure did increase over the period, however. This increase occurred despite the impacts of the global financial crisis of 2008–2009, the decline in official development assistance received, and more limited fiscal resources in gen-eral, as well as the high demand for public spending on other social services. Five countries met the target during the 2003–2008 and 2008–2014 periods, and several more came close.

The year 2016 kicked off with a continent-wide campaign called “Seize the Moment” to accelerate implementation of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and help ensure impact at the grassroots level.
Led by African governments, the African Union Commission, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Planning and Coordinating Agency, the African Development Bank, and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, the campaign seeks to keep agriculture as a priority and secure necessary political, policy, and financial commitments to achieve goals outlined in various national, continental, and global agreements, including national agriculture and food security investment plans. But the impacts of severe drought, climate change, conflict, and rapid urbanization will create ongoing challenges in 2017.

The small size and remoteness of many countries in Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) regions mean they cannot
compete with larger players in world markets and are vulnerable to economic and financial shocks. There is a growing need to improve regional integration and enhance connectivity to ensure a more inclusive form of trade and support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

In this context, the Hub & Spokes programme is an innovative aid trade initiative that helps to enhance trade capacity in the ACP group of states. Its overall objective is to contribute to sustainable economic development and poverty reduction in ACP countries through closer regional integration and increased participation in international trade.

URBANIZATION, FOOD SAFETY, AND NUTRITION

Africa has been urbanizing rapidly for several decades, and the trend is expected to continue. The number of people living in cities nearly doubled between 1995 and 2015, and the urban population is expected to nearly double again over the next two decades.

A 2007 World Bank study found that urbanization is associated with falling poverty in most developing regions, but to a much lesser extent in Africa south of the Sahara Urbanization is often driven by rising agricultural productivity in rural areas and increasing industrial activity in urban areas, but neither of these trends has been as pronounced in Africa as in other regions.

One important potential benefit of urbanization in Africa, alongside the growth of a middle class, is the increasing demand from urban food markets for agricultural products. Urban areas account for a disproportionate share of food
demand. Call for processed and non-perishable foods increases sharply as income rise, which presents opportunities for the expansion of value added and employment in post-farmgate segments of food value chains, such as processing.      

Evidence exists that domestic small and medium agribusiness firms are increasingly active in storage, processing, transport, and wholesale and retail activities catering to urban markets. To realize the employ-ment and income benefits of growing urban food demand, though, domestic producers and firms must be able to respond to that demand rather than lose the opportunity to imports. Moreover, increased investments in basic market and road infrastructure services in small- and medium-sized cities that are more closely tied to the rural nonfarm economy are key for more inclusive growth,
employment opportunities, and poverty reduction.

To improve rural-urban linkages, government does not need to do much more than what most governments are already doing or intend to do. This means, for example, building roads and maintaining them. It also means investing in rural people, in their health, education, clean water and sanitation so that educated, healthy, rural people can take up employment opportunities. Such investments and services are neither novel, nor that challenging: it is largely a question of giving them sufficient priority when budgeting.

Sustaining CAADP’s momentum and realizing the ambitious 2014 Malabo Declaration commitments will require countries to intensify their implementation efforts and meet funding targets. Countries will need to address challenges arising from limited technical and institutional capacities in planning and implementation as well as weak inter-ministerial coordination, and also strengthen mutual accountability platforms.

The severe drought in eastern and southern Africa and the scale of humanitarian need underline the urgency of strengthening the resilience of communities in the face of climate shocks. Efforts are underway at the continental and national levels to meet the Malabo Declaration commitment of enhancing resilience of livelihoods and production systems.

In light of urbanization, the rise of a middle class, and growing demand for processed and perishable foods, the private sector can play a key role in the food supply chain, operating in the processing, wholesale, retail, and transport segments. Governments must continue to improve the environment for private sector investments in agriculture and agribusiness through policy reforms that, for example, provide secure land tenure and favourable terms to access credit, or reduce barriers to licensing and input importation.

Over the last three decades, increases in agricultural output in Africa have come largely through extending rain-fed crop cultivation, particularly food crops, on to more and more marginal soils and/or by reducing traditional fallow periods in cropping cycles.

Under conditions of rapid human population growth, rural households have been forced to adopt agricultural practices
that guarantee their survival. Unfortunately, raising the
productivity of crop enterprises through intensification per unit of land cultivated – i.e., through increasing crop yields per hectare – has not been adequately promoted as an important household food security strategy.

Apart from commercial agriculture which covers a relatively small share of crop production, the use of agricultural inputs – that is, improved seeds, inorganic fertilizers, insecticides and pesticides – has been much lower in Africa than in other
parts of the developing world. Inorganic fertilizer use is
often less than ten kilograms of nutrients per hectare. Use of agro-chemicals and/or integrated pest management techniques to deal with plant diseases and pests is still largely confined to export crops.

Continuous expansion of crop cultivation has been done at the expense of the natural resources. One consequence has been the accelerated destruction of forest resources by land clearing and over-exploitation for fuel-wood and other household uses. Another, more subtle effect, has been the deterioration of livestock farming as larger and larger areas formally allocated for dry season grazing are put under the hoe and plough.

WHAT ABOUT THE AGRO-INDUSTRY

Africa hosts a huge spectrum of suitable agro-climatic conditions that allow a broad range of diverse agricultural production. However, it is still importing large quantities of agricultural and food products that may be produced within the continent. For some products, large parts of production are simply not exploited due to lack of infrastructure for commercialization and processing. Besides, market access is becoming an opportunity with the creation of free trade areas at regional level and with preferential trade agreements with certain countries-regions. Urbanization and subsequent food diversification is also an opportunity for African
processed staples.

The level of agro-processing at rural level in Africa is in most of the cases inexistent or just very basic; besides, and as consequence of this low level of agro-processing capacity, sub-Sahara countries face huge post-harvest losses; for
instance and for perishable agro-commodities such as fruits and vegetables, the post-harvest losses average 35-50% of total attainable production, meanwhile for grains vary between 15 to 25%.

Interventions in agro industry development carried out in collaboration with the Private Sector should be designed to create the adequate environment and enhance the emergence of locally owned agro-processing industries, capable of creating jobs and increasing income in rural Africa. Moreover agro industries can promote industrialisation and urban
employment, break the ‘productivity gap’ of development, reduce food costs andremove uncertainties and improve the diet.

Despite the inherent complexity of agricultural systems and the differing regional and country contexts in which agriculture
and agribusiness performance needs to be evaluated,
globally comparable data and indicators offer meaningful tools that can enable countries, policy makers and stakeholders to identify barriers that impede the growth of agriculture and agribusinesses, share experiences and develop strategies to improve the policy environment anchored in local contexts.

AGRO ECOLOGY: A SUSTAINABLE TOOL

Africa is endowed with a wide diversity of agro-ecological zones. These zones range from the heavy rain-forest vegetation with bi-annual rainfall to relatively sparse, dry and arid vegetation with low uni-modal rainfall.  This diversity is a tremendous asset, but it also poses a substantial challenge for African agricultural development.

On the one hand, it creates a vast potential with respect to the mix of agricultural commodities and products which can be produced and marketed in domestic and external markets. On the other hand, the diversity implies that there
are no universal solutions to agricultural development
problems across the continent. Consequently, programming and implementing interventions in the sector must be tailored to the particular conditions of the different agro-ecological zones and to prevailing socio-economic conditions of rural households within individual countries.

“Agriculture is not a way of life…
Agriculture is a business”
Akin ADESINA
President of the AfDB

Agriculture must meet the challenges of hunger and malnutrition – against a backdrop of population growth, increased pressure on natural resources including soils and water, the loss of biodiversity, and the uncertainties associated with climate change. While past efforts focused on boosting agricultural output to produce more food, today’s challenges – including climate change – demand a new approach.

A transition is needed to more sustainable food systems-food systems that produce more, with more socio-economic
benefits and with less environmental consequences. In many countries agriculture has been seen as an enemy of the
environment, but there is increasing recognition that a regenerative, productive farming sector can provide environmental benefits and services while creating rural employment and sustaining livelihoods.

To harness the multiple sustainability benefits that arise from agro ecological approaches, an enabling environment is required, including adapted policies, public investments, institutions and research priorities. Agroecology is the basis for evolving food systems that are equally strong in environmental, economic, social and agronomic dimensions.

Agroecology is based on applying ecological concepts and principles to optimize interactions between plants, animals, humans and the environment.

LOOKING AHEAD

Yet Africa has vast agricultural potential, and most of the technologies required to boost yields are already at hand. With the right policies and investments, African agriculture could readily become an engine for inclusive growth across the continent.

Sustainable, inclusive growth in the agriculture and food sector creates jobs-on farms, in markets, cities, towns and villages, and throughout the farm-to-table food production and consumption chain. To achieve this goal, we need to be more productive and efficient in the way we grow food, while building the resilience of both farmers and food supply chains while simultaneously reducing the environmental footprint of the agriculture and food sectors.

The goal of a regionally integrated and economically diverse Africa – determined to include young and old, women and men, rural and urban communities alike, while being increasingly green – will establish Africa as the next global emerging market. Cross-border trade in agricultural product boosts food security and limits price volatility.

The 2030 Agenda requires that all sectors, including agriculture, be considered from the point of view of the three dimensions of sustainability: economic, social and environmental. This multidimensional role of agriculture requires it to be seen and analysed in a more holistic and broader context than in the past; that is, to include social, environmental and economic dimensions underpinned by governance and resilience.

Agricultural Transformation is an ambitious and inclusive agenda. Using more business-oriented approach will help introduce new farming practices and business models, and will link farmers, processors and traders into global value chains. It will support women farmers, youth and marginalised groups, helping them overcome barriers to accessing land, credit and services.

Robust, effective and efficient regulatory systems are
essential components of well-functioning agriculture and food markets. In turn, such systems can help achieve the twin goals of the World Bank Group-ending poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity-as well as the Sustainable Development Goals.

“With our globalized economy and sophisticated technology, we can decide to end the age-old ills of extreme poverty and hunger”

Ban Ki-moon

 

BY

Mrs Mémé A.Tsan FALL

Advisor Be4Ag CBL-ACP
BeLux Agro & Agro Industry Cluster
Head of Bilateral Section Senegal