28 March 2012

Africa: To End Poverty Invest in Agriculture-IFAD

Photo: Fred Noy/UN Photo
A farmer harvests sorghum.

African governments will have to invest in agriculture as the most effective way of ending poverty if they are to meet any of their Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which has a target date of 2015.

Speaking yesterday ahead of a high-level African ministers meeting to push growth in the continent by ensuring that agriculture is at the top of national agendas. The President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Kanayo F. Nwanze said; "Increasing investment in agriculture is essential to achieving the MDGs.

"Investments in agriculture are more effective in lifting people out of poverty than investments in any other sector - they not only drive economic growth and set the stage for long-term sustainable development, they pay high dividends in terms of quality of life and dignity for poor rural people."

IFAD specialises in helping eradicate rural poverty in developing countries. The eight MDGs - which range from halving extreme poverty to providing universal primary education, all by the target date of 2015 - form a blueprint agreed to by all the world's countries and all of the world's leading development institutions.

The events in Addis Ababa - the Joint Annual Meeting of the African Union Conference of Ministers of Economy and Finance and the UN Economic Commission for Africa Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development - will focus on how to plan post-2015.

"The experience of IFAD has shown that agriculture is a business, and our business is to make sure smallholder agriculture is profitable so that rural communities can thrive," Mr. Nwanze said in a news release received by The New Times. "To accelerate progress in meeting the MDGs, agriculture must be viewed as the main engine of economic growth," he added.

His stand resonates well with President Paul Kagame's call during an international IFAD meeting in Rome late last month when he urged world leaders to support smallholder farmers if the world is to achieve sustainable agriculture productivity and environment protection.

He was addressing the 35th session of the Governing Council of the organisation held under the theme, Sustainable smallholder agriculture: feeding the world, protecting the planet.

He was among the key speakers at the inaugural ceremony of the two-day meeting held at the headquarters of IFAD in Rome, Italy.

"If the world is to meet the twin objectives of feeding the growing population and protecting the environment we will have to do what we know works." Kagame said. "And that is targeted support and investment in smallholder farming to raise agricultural productivity, contribute to food security and reduce poverty, while protecting our planet."

Using Rwanda's experience, Kagame said that the world's growing population can get enough food only if smallholder farmers have access to basic modern farming tools including fertilisers, improved seeds and professional advices.

According to IFAD, a key challenge is helping build the capacity of smallholder farmers and their organizations so that they can become viable rural businesses, particularly for women and young people who shoulder the future of African smallholder farming.

At the meetings in the Ethiopian capital, the IFAD President will share his vision for ensuring smallholder farmers are at the centre of any plan for post-2015. Such farmers represent 80 per cent of all farms in sub-Saharan Africa and contribute up to 90 per cent of production in some countries.

Mr. Nwanze also expects to speak about the impact of climate change on sub-Saharan Africa, noting how African smallholder farmers are particularly affected by the global phenomenon as they do not have the means and know-how to adapt to its consequences.

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