ESAFF outlines what must be done to make 2014 Year of Agriculture more meaningful
* Actions needed: honour Maputo Declaration, Policy reforms, Climate Change Adaptation, Smallholder agro-financing,
The African Union declaration of 2014 as the year of agriculture and food security is a step in the right direction which must be followed by concrete actions for the benefit of the majority smallholder farmers in the continent.
A statement issued late January in Addis Ababa by the Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers Forum (ESAFF) applauding the declaration but noted that African agriculture was in dire need of support, investment and technological innovations to spur productivity.
ESAFF Chairman, Mr Moses Shaha noted that agriculture remains to be the largest sector in terms of its share in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employs an average of 60% of the labour force in many African countries but has not been receiving commensurate attention in terms of budgetary allocations and other needs.
He underscored that sadly despite AU Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security in Africa popularly known as the Maputo Declaration in 2003 that required African countries to increase agriculture spending to at least about 10 per cent of annual budgets by 2008, only a few countries have made good the endorsement.
“Only seven out of the 49 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have consistently reached the 10% target,” he pointed out in the statement. Even the adoption of Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) framework which is supposed to up Maputo declaration has been sluggish, and African governments still allocate an average of only 5% of their national budget to agriculture.
“It is generally observed that annual allocations to agriculture in these non-responsive countries are insufficient to galvanize growth and development impact intended through CAADP,” Shaha asserted adding that the failure to allocate adequate budgetary support was holding back food production and food security in Africa, where 223 million people live in hunger (FAO, 2012).
Smallholder oriented agriculture-led development would have helped to make good the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of halving poverty and hunger by 2015, he noted.
He expressed grave concern with the agro-initiatives flawing from the North, including AGRA and the G8’s “New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition in Africa. “Who is set to benefit from such initiatives which are premised on the current global crisis with financial, economic, food energy and ecological dimensions?” he posed. He expressed small holder farmers fear that some Green Revolution technologies championed on the global arena posed real Ecological concerns for Africa.
To make the year of Agriculture real, ESAFF Chairman said agriculture policy reforms that would address food security and sovereignty requirements for smallholder farmers who along with their dependents constitute the largest socio-economic group, were needed.
“Policy reforms should encourage active participation and inclusion of smallholder farmers and their organizations within the framework of bottom up approach. This will enhance ownership and control of the means of production which are sustainable in terms of addressing diversified farming systems that are location specific,” he noted.
ESAFF Chairman noted that apart from policy reforms Climate Change Adaptation was a big challenge that needed to be addressed. “Resources must be directed towards building climate change adaptation strategies at local level.”
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