A representative from the United Nations Agriculture arm is calling on African governments to do more to help the small farmer. From Business Day, reporter Siaka Momoh received the latest remarks from the International Fund for Agricultural Development leader Kanayo F. Nwanze
The prime place of agriculture in the scheme of things in Africa came to light again recently in Cairo, Egypt as Kanayo F. Nwanze, president of the UN’s rural poverty agency, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) urged African governments to create a dynamic smallholder agricultural sector.
For him, African governments that nourish their agriculture sectors can limit the impact of the global financial crisis on poor rural communities and help their countries emerge from the current turmoil.
“The impact on Africa of the recent food and fuel crisis – and now an unprecedented global economic crisis – has been severe and threatens to undo the continent’s notable economic progress,” said IFAD president Kanayo F. Nwanze.
“Resuming economic growth, resolving the food crisis and tackling the challenge of poverty must necessarily be based on creating a dynamic smallholder agriculture sector. Investing in smallholder agriculture is the most sustainable safety net for societies,” said Nwanze.
Smallholder farms in Africa number some 80 million and supply up to 80 per cent of African agricultural production.
Nwanze was speaking in view of the Joint Annual Meeting of Ministers of Finance and Economy of the African Union (AU) and of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) which held on 6-7 June in Cairo . The theme of this year’s meeting, which Nwanze attended, was “Enhancing the effectiveness of fiscal policy for domestic resources mobilization”.
Up to 40 per cent of labour in sub-Saharan Africa is concentrated in the agriculture sector, which generates more than 30 per cent of export earnings.
On average, basic staples such as maize, rice and wheat account for 20 per cent of the food consumed in sub-Saharan Africa .
Africa is heavily dependent on imports: 45 per cent of rice and 85 per cent of wheat, as well as almost all the fertilizer in sub-Saharan Africa , is imported.