Cameroon Tribune (Yaoundé)

8 April 2003

Cameroon: NEPAD: Meeting Lays Groundwork For Africa's Food Crisis

Meeting in Yaounde last Friday, experts discussed that it was an emergency to effectively implement the continent's Agricultural programme.

Time for the implementation of the ambitious programme for Africa's Agriculture, proposed by the Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO and endorsed by the New Partnership for Africa" Development. Experts have resolved that for the programme to save Africa's crisis situation, its implementation must be immediate. Meeting in Yaounde last Friday under the auspices of the ministry of Agriculture and the FAO, experts in the sector discussed the pertinence of the programme and how each African country could contribute in the ensuring its success. There was a complete convergence of ideas on which sectors to be prioritised in order for Africa's agriculture to improve the food situation of the continent. These sectors are not in the real sense new. They were identified last year in Rome when African ministers of Agriculture met within the framework of the FAO African Regional Conference. The three sectors are: increase in a sustainable manner of surface land for agriculture through the use of viable water systems; amelioration of rural infrastructure and trade facilities; and increase food supply and hurger alleviation.

The regional conference in actual fact went beyond these three sectors but what appears to be striking about the proposals is the special emphasis on the research factor which it suggest must be a whole gamut of research, results and adoption of technologies. This is a domain which is expected to in a long term accelerate productivity.

Africa; this is not news to anyone, is a rural continent where agriculture plays an important role in its economy. In the whole region, the agric sector represents about 60 per cent of its GDP. The latest figures published for 1997-1999, show that about 200 million people, representing 28 per cent of the population suffer from chronic hunger. In 1990-1992, the figure stood at 173 million. The proportion of people suffering from hunger may have dropped slightly , but absolute figures on the situation have increased significantly.

Ambitious strategy

Cameroon is not left behind in the bit to fight hunger by improving on the activities of the rural sector , notably agriculture. The country's development strategy to that effect, portrays an ambition that may change the face of things for Cameroonians. The strategy has set four objectives to achieve: one, fight poverty, two, satisfy growing demand for food, three, integrate the sector in both the sub regional and international market, and four assure the sustainability of its performance in the long run. The choice of the sector has surely been made taking into consideration the sector past contribution to the economy and its potentialities. Agriculture is officially recognised to have contributed immensely in Cameroon's economic recovery. The present strategy has identified four areas of intervention: one, modernisation of the production system, two, promotion of institutions, three, building of an incisive framework, and four, sustainable management of natural resources. Within each of the areas of intervention, the following approach must be deployed: promotion of revenue-generating activities within vulnerable groups, participation of those concerned, taking into consideration the gender approach and putting of operations under contract basis.

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