Year 2014: African small scale farmers want to be at centre stage
If African nations want guaranteed inclusive growth and economic prosperity, the best route to take is agriculture development, led by smallholder farmers who comprise the majority (with their families).
This emerged at the launch of African Union (AU) Africa Year of Agriculture (AYoA) as agriculture stakeholders from across the continent called for governments to make smallholder farmers the centre stage of development for more inclusive economic growth.
They called for actions that would make a difference to improve the livelihood of smallholder farmers during the Africa Year of Agriculture (AYoA) and UN year of Family Farming 2014, and beyond.
Speaking at various occasions during the preparatory of the launch of the AYoA in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, stakeholders said Agro-ecology and protection of farmers’ food sovereignty was a prerequisite to make agriculture uplift lives of millions people across Africa.
Mr. Hakim Baliraine, the General Secretary of ESAFF said that there is need to ensure African governments largely fund their own agriculture budgets. He said national priorities like agriculture must be given due importance, and decisions on investment should not be determined by the donors.
He said involvement of small scale farmers in decision making regarding agriculture policies at all level is important to ensure development of agriculture sector. “Involve small scale farmers in policy processes regardless of who we are, what we do or where we come from,” said Mr. Baliraine who is also the chairman of ESAFF –Uganda and a small scale farmer from Mayuge District.
On his part, thePan African Farmers Forum (PAFFO) representative Mr. Loukosou, said family farming is a major type of agriculture practiced in Africa but leaders have refuses to acknowledge it unlike in Europe and elsewhere in the world. Such stereotype needed to be fought so as to accord smallholder farmers at family unit the deserved recognition and subsequent support.
He added that the smallholder farmers faced the food crisis and were instrumental in helping the world to recover from the crisis despite policy regimes not supporting their efforts. “Legislation particularly intellectual property rights restrict farmers’ production rights,” Mr. Loukosou emphasized.
Talking about farming and the youth in Africa, Mr. Benito Elias from the Confederation of Agriculture Unions in Southern Africa (SACAU) said the youths in agriculture are like children with many parents who care less about them. He called for Investments and plans in Africa to be youth sensitive.
The high-level event on agriculture in Africa was organised at the end of January 2014 by farmers organisations, NGOs from Africa among them are the ONE Campaign, ACORD, Actionaid and Oxfam to launch the campaign ahead of the official AU launch in July 2014.
Speaking in the same occasion, the ONE Director, Dr. Sipho Moyo said it was paramount to get get citizens to work together in agriculture development as it was a sure way of creating jobs, eliminating food insecurity, improving market conditions and uplifting people out of poverty. “It requires a collective effort by all” she emphasised.
Action Aid International, Hon. Irene Ovonji wondered why the resource rich Africa had the poorest people in the world. She called for Agriculture to be recognised as a driver of development in Africa. “Government must commit to creating an enabling environment for food security and food sovereignty as a way of transforming the continent,” she said.
ACORD representative pointed of the need for land equity in Africa, and asked for support to small scale farmers to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Mr. Housain Ngum cautioned that GMOs need to be watched to ensure that they don’t disrupt smallholder farmers’ rights.
On his part Mr. Lamine of OXFAM wondered why some countries which had reached 10% budget allocation to agriculture where still impoverished. He attributed the mishap to budget allocations without commensurate policy reforms.
Other key speakers at the event included Mr. Jose Grassiano da Silva (Director of FAO), Mark Suzman (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) and the AU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Madam Rhoda Tumusiime Peace. Mr. Da Silva said food security in Africa and the world will not be realised without small scale farmers and family farming initiatives getting deserved support. Mr. Suzman highlighted the motive of his Foundation to work with everyone to develop African agriculture. The Commissioner Peace said CAADP was a rallying point for all stakeholders for African agriculture development.
The head of NEPAD Secretariat Mr. Martin Bwalya said the difference between the CAADP/Maputo of 2003 and the new CAADP, is that the current imitative has seen a great mobilisation of civil society and farmer groups unlike in the earlier initiatives.
Farmer leaders that represented ESAFF in Addis Ababa were; Mr. Moses Shaha (Chairman of KESSFF – Kenya and Chairman of ESAFF), Mr. Richard Rabetrano (CPM – Madagascar), Mr. Serge Benstrong (SeyFA – Seychelles), Ms. Rachel Muyoboke (ESAFF Rwanda), Ms. Odette Nzeyimana (ESAFF Burundi), Mr. Mubanga Kasakula (ESAFF Zambia), Ms. Flora Maswanganyi (ESAFF South Africa), Ms. Mamalefetsane Phakoe (ESAFF Lesotho), Ms. Catherine Chimenya (NASFAM Malawi), Mr. Delma Ndlovu (ZIMSOFF - Zimbabwe), Ms. Saquina Mucavele (ESAFF Mozambique - Mugede)
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