Maputo — The President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Jane Kuruku, told reporters in Maputo on Tuesday that there are examples of good agricultural practices in Africa which, if empowered and expanded, could help drive up production on the continent.
“There are small things, and medium sized things, which are happening in Africa, and it's these things that will make the green revolution”, she said, addressing a press briefing ahead of the Third African Green Revolution Forum, taking place in the Mozambican capital this week.
Kuruka said that the green revolution achieved in countries such as India, Vietnam and Brazil also started from successful small scale projects, such as those that can now be found in Africa.
Despite urbanization, in Africa more than 65 per cent of the population still makes its living from agriculture.
Although there has been significant economic growth in Africa over the past decade, it has not resulted in enough new jobs or poverty reduction, nor has it achieved the desirable levels of food security.
There are still about 388 million people in Africa living in extreme poverty, and 290 million Africans are suffering from chronic malnutrition.
"Despite immense agricultural potential, Africa is a net importer of food. Over the last two decades, there has been a progressive increase in food imports and it is now estimated that the continent imports over 22 billion US dollars worth of food annually," Kuruku said.
Despite this scenario, Kuruku regarded the continent with some optimism, and believes that the situation can be changed. “Never has so much been spoken about agriculture in Africa as now, and many things are happening”, she said. Investments were now being made not only in production, but in capacity building, and in access to markets for farmers' crops.
AGRA gives primacy to all stages in the value chain, including capacity building, development of more productive and drought-resistant seeds, improving the soil, and access to fertiliser.
During the Forum, which begins on Wednesday, participants will look at these matters and analyse progress in implementing the Maputo Declaration, approved at the African Union summit held in Maputo in 2003.
The declaration committed its signatories to spending at least ten per cent of their budgets on agriculture and to ensuring growth of the agricultural sector of six percent annually in order to reduce food insecurity and poverty.
Bur ten years later, most African countries have failed to meet this target. Mozambique appears to be doing reasonably well. The total spent on agriculture and rural development in 2012 was 11 per cent of the budget, but it fell to 10 per cent in the revised budget for 2013 passed by the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, in early August.
According to AGRA, only 11 of Africa's 54 countries are meeting the ten per cent target. Between 2000 and 2007, expenditure on African agriculture almost doubled - but even so, by 2007 only eight countries had achieved the target set by the Maputo Declaration. Progress since then has been slow. By 2011, 11 countries had met the target, and the same number showed agricultural growth rates in excess of the six per cent stipulated by the Declaration.
The AGRA Director of Monitoring and Evaluation, David Ameyaw, warns that the current levels of investment in agriculture are not enough to meet the demand for food. “We are going very slowly”, he told reporters, and the number of countries meeting the Maputo Declaration target was insufficient to address malnutrition on the continent.