The New Times (Kigali)

7 September 2012

Africa: Continent Advised to Increase Agriculture Spending

The Forum for Agriculture Research in Africa (FARA) has decried African governments' persistent under-funding of the agricultural sector as the leading cause of slow development on the continent.

Its Executive Director, Prof. Monty Jones, made the remarks at the opening of a three-day consultative workshop in Kigali that aims at strengthening the capacity for agricultural innovation in post-conflict and prolonged crises countries.

"In post-conflict situations, provisions of peace depend on robust economic growth. For many post-conflict countries in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere, the economies are largely dependent on agriculture and investment in agricultural development is the best bet for stimulating aggregate GDP growth," Prof Monty explained.

He added that the role of agriculture in evolving development of countries emerging from conflict rests on the fact that on average, GDP growth originating in the agricultural sector is considered at least twice effective as in reducing poverty as GDP derived from other sectors.

Engaging the agricultural sector facilitates abatement at least in the initial reconstruction stages of the unemployment situations invariably characterising many post-conflict countries.

Prof Monty believes that as the states re-embark on an industrialisation path, agricultural produce would provide raw materials for local agro-based industries and also serve as export goods, bringing in much-needed foreign exchange for importation of inputs for the non-agro industrial sector.

Agriculture minister, Dr. Agnes Kalibata, urged African countries, especially those in post-conflict situations, to invest more in agriculture if they are to develop.

"The surest way to sustainable socio-economic rehabilitation is investing more in agriculture. The rural poor in post conflict situations depend largely on agriculture for livelihood nutrition and food security," she noted.

According to FARA, circumstances in 22 countries worldwide currently subscribe to the banner of protracted crises, with 80 per cent of such countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

These include Burundi, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Uganda, among others.

Delegations from the aforementioned states are in Kigali to share success stories of the other countries that have fully recovered from conflicts including South Africa, Botswana, Ghana and Rwanda.

According to a 2009 USAID report, the main objective of agricultural reforms in post-conflict countries is to reverse disruption of food production and agricultural markets and put the agricultural sector back to a growth path.

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