Maputo — The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) launched in Maputo on Wednesday its first “African Agriculture Status Report”, intended “to adopt a new thinking in agriculture, one that reflects a value chain approach”.
The report is based on information from 16 African countries, including Mozambique, and pays particular attention to “agricultural land and labour productivity, and the potential to achieve rapid growth and development”.
Speaking at the launch, the Mozambican Minister of Industry and Trade, Armando Inroga, said the research in the report shows that agriculture must remain a basic factor in the development policies and strategies of African governments
The document, Inroga said, shows that “in a systematic and continual manner, we are beginning to study the causes the levels of agricultural productivity in Africa, the structures of production and the economic policies associated with them, and the constraints that have determined our low productivity in comparison with other parts of the world”.
“The data contained in this report provide evidence that reflects the results achieved in the agricultural sector as well as the main challenges that have still to be overcome”, added the Minister.
The deputy chairperson of the AGRA Board, Strive Masiyiwa, told the launch ceremony that if Africa wishes to achieve a successful green revolution, then each country needs to understand where it is and how delayed its development is.
“For the first time the African Agriculture Status Report shows us the big picture and allows us to make comparisons between countries”, Masiyiwa said. “It provides the important and reliable data which will lead, we hope, to more informed and responsible policies”.
The report notes that agriculture remains key to African food security, employment and growth. But agricultural productivity remains lower than that of other continents, and lower than Africa's potential.
It says that, on average, 65 per cent of Africa's work force is employed in agriculture, yet the sector only contributes 32 per cent of the continent's GDP “which reflects relatively low productivity”.
In his foreword to the report, the AGRA Chairperson, former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, stressed that “Africa is endowed with abundant natural resources, including about 60 per cent of the world's arable land, some of it still virgin land. These resources, if effectively and efficiently harnessed, could reduce the threat of food insecurity”.
“Increased productivity, combined with viable agribusiness that adds value to farmers' production and improved access to markets, can drive broader economic growth across the continent and vastly improve food security”, said Annan.
The African Union target, set in the Maputo Declaration of 2003, is that all African governments should allocate at least 10 per cent of their budget to agriculture. So far only 11 of Africa's 54 countries have met that target.
A second goal is that there should be an average annual growth rate of six per cent in agriculture. Achieving such growth, Annan said, “will not only support sustained overall economic growth, but will also open up major opportunities for African farmers in domestic, regional and international markets”.
The political thrust of the report is that much more support is required for peasant agriculture - or to use AGRA's preferred term, for smallholder farmers. They, and not multinational companies, are regarded as the backbone of any successful green revolution.
It is the smallholder farmers themselves, and not governments or large companies, who are “the principal investors in African agriculture”, the report says, although many of these investments “are not primarily or exclusively through financial outlays but through labour allocation” (in such activities as clearing land, erecting farm buildings or digging irrigation channels).
A major constraint on smallholder agriculture is access to funding.
The report points out that “lack of access to finance prevents farmers from investing in agricultural technologies that can help them achieve higher productivity and limits their participation in markets”.
The report notes that, although the Maputo declaration is now ten years old, in that decade “no country has consistently allocated 10 per cent of its budget to agriculture”. Indeed a 2007 survey showed that at that date 50 per cent of African countries were spending less than five per cent of their budget on agriculture.
Countries which have made an effort to increase agricultural expenditure include Malawi, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Ethiopia. Countries with a fairly poor record, never reaching the 10 per cent figure at any time in the last decade include Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
The sequence of statistics for Mozambique in the report is incomplete, ending in 2010, when 5.5 per cent of the budget was spent on agriculture. It is not clear why the sequence does not carry on right up to 2013, since the Mozambican budget is published every year, and it is not at all difficult to obtain a copy.
The 2012 Mozambican budget allocated 11 per cent of total expenditure to agriculture and rural development, a figure which dropped to 10 per cent in the revised 2013 budget. Since this includes some areas which are not, strictly speaking, agricultural - such as rural development projects run by the Ministry of Industry and Trade - it may not meet the criteria for the Maputo Declaration target.