James Kinyangi, the Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security East Africa regional programme leader, insisted that African countries have to commit to investing in agriculture if they are to see it grow.
“The countries themselves put together a framework through the Maputo Declaration – the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme – where it notes that African governments must rethink investment in agriculture. One of the resolutions agreed [to] at the declaration was that 10 per cent or more of the National Budget of these countries must be invested in agriculture to ensure the growth of the agriculture sector, in order to reduce food insecurity and poverty,” he told CNBCafrica.com.
“We need to go back to those terms and make sure we scale up investment in agriculture on the basis of understanding that agriculture needs to be the main engine that drives growth. In addition to that, we need to make sure that as we invest, we are also providing for insurance and safety mechanisms that protect agricultural innovations.”
ADDRESSING THE ISSUE OF FOOD SECURITY
The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) annual meeting, which is being held in Davos, Switzerland from January 22 to January 25, 2014, will be focusing on climate change and its effect on food security on a global scale during a panel discussion held on Thursday.
According to the World Bank, in Africa specifically, agriculture employs around 65 per cent of the continent’s labour force and accounts for at least 32 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“Agriculture in East Africa accounts for almost half of the GDP of most countries, with the exception of Kenya where it accounts for a little less than 30 per cent. These countries are dominated by rain-fed agriculture and small-holder agriculture so the impact of climate change has been very negative on food production in general,” said Kinyangi.
“We had an agreement that enables countries to come up with, what they call, National Adaptation Plans as a means of identifying medium and long-term adaptation needs, and also developing and implementing strategies and programmes to address those needs.”
INVESTING IN AGRICULTURE
It has also been said that agriculture development is crucial to Africa’s growth and to reducing poverty in various regions on the continent.
“A number of countries in East Africa, and I can quote Kenya specifically, have moved ahead to develop a plan. Currently a lot of these mechanisms for supporting the implementation of the agriculture components are taking place under, what we call, the National Climate Change Action Plan,” Kinyangi explained.
“This plan provides for specific investments in water, to make sure that small-holder farmers are provisioned against rainfall availability. They are able to harvest, store water and use water for irrigation. There are also other investments in drought tolerant varieties of crops. There is the aspect of diversification. What is lacking now is for governments to step up and provide for the investments that are needed in order to implement their plans.”
AFRICA'S POPULATION GROWTH
Africa, whose population stood at 1.01 billion in 2009, is expected to grow to two billion by 2050 – another topic that will be thoroughly looked at, at the WEF annual meeting.
“Generally, in terms of food security, there’s a very big challenge in sub-Saharan Africa. It’s because of rapid population growth, which is amongst the highest in the world. Poor governance in some of the countries, meaning that conditions for food availability, distribution and production continues to deteriorate. We now know that climate change and those impacts have hit Africa hardest,” Kinyangi indicated.
“We are also very vulnerable in Africa because the choice of our staples is narrow – a lot of the countries rely on maize as a major staple [food]. We need to diversify into rice, potatoes, fisheries. We need to make sure we’re able to diversify our production methods in terms of developing irrigation in order to cope with population growth.”
THE CONTINENT'S RELIANCE ON AGRICULTURE
Kinyangi added that, in Africa, we are still very much reliant on small-holder farmers providing skills, in terms of production, processing and transport, and that that is unlikely to change.
“Out of about 800 million hungry people in the world, 200 million of those, or slightly over 200 million, are in sub-Saharan Africa. This means that sub-Saharan Africa contains the second highest number of undernourished people after Southern Asia,” he said.
“Africa is really unique because if you look at many other countries in the world, especially the developed countries, agriculture forms a very small function of their GDP, and a small fraction of their population is engaged in agriculture. A lot of African labour forces still engage in agriculture. We need to transition and move towards providing for a bigger role for the private sector to bring in investments, to make sure that they have a role in, not just food production but also, storage, distribution and other high vale processing aspects of the value chain.”