Agriculture is critical to the African economy as 80 per cent of the labour force is employed in the sector while contributing about 40 per cent to the gross domestic product (GDP).
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“African agriculture is performing way below its potential, while importing almost 40 billion US dollars worth of food and agriculture products every year from outside the continent,” Michael Hailu, director of Tech Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation told CNBC Africa.
“Many young people are leaving the rural areas with millions migrating to the urban cities as they do not see much of a future in the agriculture industry,” he added.
Hailu posited that transformation was urgently required in the sector.
“We are trying to transform the agriculture sector so that it can play its full potential in contributing to economic development in Africa and also ensuring that the continent becomes self-sufficient and become an exporter,” he said.
“We need to address the major bottlenecks in African agriculture with the main challenge of low level productivity in the sector itself and poor linkages to the markets.”
Hailu also said, currently farmers are in a cycle where they were producing enough for subsistence and a little extra for exports.
“The challenge is how to up productivity, minimising risks at the same time organising farmers to work out through the value chain,” noted the agricultural expert.
“A lot emphasis by governments and development donor agencies have been on the production side of things with little progress.”
Hailu said, there was a need to go beyond production and look at the entire value chain in terms of marketing, processing and distribution.
“The major challenge of increasing productivity has been a low level of inputs in terms of access to seeds and fertilizers which is one area of intervention required by farmers on a sustainable basis.”