Op-Ed: Small Farmers to Revitalise Agriculture in Africa

Caption: Ms Annie Kaipa planting seeds – picture supplied

By: Mary-Jean Nleya *

President of the African Development Bank, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, was chosen as the World Food Laureate by the World Food Prize board in June 2017. On October 16, as part of the World Food Prize events, he delivered a boldly-titled lecture “Betting on Africa To Feed The World”.

With an estimated 33 million small-holder farmers, Africa has in recent times been dubbed the “breadbasket of the world”. The 33 million small-holder farmers represent a great business opportunity to be tapped into to expand market share for businesses seeking to service small-holder farmers. But is Africa living up to the “breadbasket” moniker?

In a world that produces enough food to feed everyone, one in nine people goes to bed hungry every day. That is an approximate number of 815 million people. Food security remains a global challenge. This great need means there is a great global food demand.

In Malawi, attempts have been made to improve agriculture development for small-holder farmers. The Agriculture Commodity Exchange for Africa in Malawi has not lived to its full potential and has not yielded positive externalities for small-holder farmers, and specifically, women small-holder farmers, in the country.

Trading volumes are low and the exchange is predominantly focused on staple foods. The supply chain infrastructure for small-holder farmers in Malawi is yet to be developed. COMESA (the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) in 2016 implemented an initiative to regionalize the supply of fertilizer to small-holder farmers through the Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa starting in Zambia.

An expected 500,000 metric tonnes of fertilisers were to be supplied to small-holder farmers across the region under the auspices of the same initiative, over a period of 36 months with an expected renewal for up to 10 years.

Obstacles for women farmers

Small-holder farmers work on over 60% of farmland in sub-Saharan Africa and women small-holder farmers make up almost 50% of the labour force in the agriculture sector; but produce almost 30% less than their male counterparts because of obstacles experienced, such as barriers to accessing markets and receiving farming inputs, obstacles to access to financing and others.

Despite the current challenges that women specifically face in the small-holder agriculture sector, their resilience is palpable. “I really enjoy farming – farming is my calling”, said Annie Bongololo Kaipa a 36-year-old Malawian small-holder farmer in the Kanengo Area of Lilongwe.

Speaking fluently in English and adorning a blue necklace and a lace top, Kaipa confidently said, “I completed my secondary education and passed the Malawi School Certificate of Education, I could have ventured in other things – but I chose to farm. I have 4 plots, I bought my fourth plot in 2008 – I farm sugar cane, maize, beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes and bananas”. When asked about the reason behind her purchasing more plots to farm, she said: “I am motivated because it is through this that I am able to make a living for my children and use the income to take them to school”.

Kaipa learned how to farm from her father

Kaipa started farming at the age of 8 after learning the skill from her father. She said: “My father encouraged all of his children to go to school and after school to go to the farm. At the time, he was working at the Lilongwe Teacher’s Training College and was also a farmer during the weekends”.

She further explained, “My father considered farming as a safety net in case his children did not succeed at anything else. And he was right. It is through this, my farming, that I can feed myself and my children as well as educate my children”.

Kaipa explained her farming activities and challenges, “Fertilizer is expensive and I water my various plots by hand using this watering can – this is a great challenge. I wish I had a treadle pump – it would be very helpful”. She went further to say, “The market for selling the produce can also be a challenge – sometimes I plant potatoes but then it is difficult to sell, because I am competing with the supermarkets. The supermarkets do not buy from people like us. If the supermarkets could buy from us, it would really improve us and our farming businesses”.

Adesina introduced the E-Wallet system in Nigeria

The initiative introduced by the Food Laureate, Adesina while he was Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development in Nigeria, the E-Wallet system improved Nigeria’s food production and became an enabler of fertiliser distribution.

Such an initiative coupled with the COMESA/ACTESA initiative, if rolled out appropriately in Malawi, would be beneficial for improving the farming business of keen small-holder farmers such as Annie Kaipa. The current attempts in harmonizing COMESA seed laws through the COMESA Seed Harmonization Implementation Programme in the region will create a better environment to monitor and certify seed quality.

This will lead to an investment-friendly climate for commercial seeds that are geared for export. In turn, seed quality will be improved, which will benefit small-holder farmers, if the right public policies are put in place.

Partnership between OCP Group and Nigerian government

The Nigerian Presidential Fertiliser Initiative (PFI), a program introduced by the Nigerian government and the OCP Group, the Moroccan state-owned entity which is the global market leader in phosphate and phosphoric acid – derivatives of fertilizer production and a key player in the international market. This partnership between the Nigerian government and OCP Group, through the PFI, is an attempt at affording farmers fertilizers at reasonable prices, from what was the case prior to the initiative.

With an estimated population of 18 million, Malawi’s economy relies heavily on agriculture, with agriculture contributing 30% to the country’s GDP. It is therefore imperative that women small-holder farmers be supported for the welfare of the country itself and the global food system.

In the words of Annie Kaipa: “I am looking for a bigger market to sell to – if supermarkets were incentivized to buy local produce from small-holder farmers like myself, I would be in a position to expand my farming business and would adequately take care of my family.”

Indeed, empowering women can lift communities out of hardship and specifically empowering women small-holder farmers has the potential to feed more hungry mouths and transform the global food system. The development and business community should harness this incredible resource. Indeed Africa, and more so African small-holder farmers have the potential to feed the world.

 

* Mary-Jean Nleya is the founder and editor of The Global Communiqué . She was recently on a Grassroots Reporting project in Malawi. She is an Emerging Leader alumnus and was invited to attend the Atlantic Dialogues in Marrakech, Morocco – organized by the OCP Policy Center in partnership with the German Marshall Fund of the United States. Follow on twitter: @thegloco . 

 

Related Content

AfCFTA: Wamkele Mene on why the free trade deal is Africa’s COVID-19 stimulus plan

The African Continental Free Trade Area promises to be of the biggest economic stimuli for trade on the African continent. But like many projects, it has been hampered by the Covid-19 pandemic. The deal, which aims to boost intra-Africa trade, was launched over a year ago. Commerce was due to start this month; however, it will be implemented in January due to delays. Wamkele Mene, Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area spoke to CNBC Africa for more....

How will COVID-19 impact Nigerian banks’ half-year earnings?

This month marks a year since the Central Bank of Nigeria introduced the Loan-To-Deposit-Ratio policy. Nigeria's apex bank says banks total credit rose to 3.1 trillion naira on the performance of the LDR policy. Muyiwa Oni, Regional Head, Equity Research at Standard Bank Group joins CNBC Africa for more.

CSCS CEO on how the company is responding to the COVID-19 crisis

Shareholders of the Central Securities Clearing System approved dividend payments which translate to a 22.8 per cent year-on-year growth in returns to shareholders.

How will SA finmin Mboweni cut expenditure?

As the dust settles from South Africa’s emergency budget announcement, economist and ratings agencies have expressed their pessimism towards the finance minister Tito Mboweni’s ability to cut expenditure and deliver on his debt stabilisation plan. Joining CNBC Africa for this discussion are Mamello Matikinca-Ngwenya, Chief economist at FNB, Nicky Weimar, Chief Economist at Nedbank and Murtaza Moulvi, Head of Financial Markets at Standard Chartered Bank....

Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up for free newsletters and get more CNBC AFRICA delivered to your inbox

More from CNBC Africa

Omnia delivers solid results from a stabilised business

South Africa's biggest fertilizer producer Omnia was profitable in the year to March after extensively restructuring its business units. Omnia CEO, Seelan Gobalsamy joins CNBC Africa to breakdown the results.

South Africa has bad record on keeping budget promises: Fitch

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa has a poor track record of implementing debt and spending reductions plans, ratings firm Fitch said on...

Africa’s top publisher to close South African publications, cut jobs

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African media and e-commerce group Naspers plans to lay off more than 500 employees and close a number...

Battles rages for control of the National Lottery

Ithuba says Hosken Conslidated Investment's constant legal attacks are an attempt to take back control of the National Lottery from a black business woman. Charmaine Mabuza, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Ithuba joins CNBC Africa for more.

Partner Content

Maktech’s Godwin Makyao: Now Is A Time of Entrepreneurial Opportunity in East Africa

As an executive decision-maker in both the telecommunications and tourism industries, Godwin Makyao could not have experienced a more diverse set of...

Sanlam launches urgent job-preservation initiative in response to COVID-19

Sanlam Investments is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic through large-scale support of the recovery of South African companies, from small enterprises to...

Trending Now

WHO acknowledges ‘evidence emerging’ of airborne spread of COVID-19

But in an open letter to the Geneva-based agency, published on Monday in the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal, 239 scientists in 32 countries outlined evidence that they say shows floating virus particles can infect people who breathe them in.

Zimbabwe’s health minister, accused of corruption, sacked: statement

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa has sacked health minister Obadiah Moyo with immediate effect for inappropriate conduct, a statement from...

Senegal slave island, moved by George Floyd’s death, renames Europe Square

“But we also said to ourselves...that in another sense it is celebrating the persecutor,” he said. “What happened to George Floyd was the final straw.”

Ivory Coast’s 2020 growth seen sliding to 0.8% due to pandemic

ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Ivory Coast’s gross domestic product growth is expected to slow to 0.8% in 2020 compared to a previous forecast...
- Advertisement -