10 September 2018

Africa: Deep-Rooted Graft a Big Threat to Food Security, Africa Told

Photo: DPPS
Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto, left, chats with Rwanda's President Paul Kagame during the African Green Revolution Forum in Kigali, Rwanda.

Corruption, just like climate change and crop pests, is a major threat to Africa's dream of kicking out hunger by 2030.

Leaders and experts say "dirty" politics and poor management of resources are hurting the agriculture sector, leading to persistent food insecurity in the continent.

Speaking during this year's African Green Revolution Forum that ended on Saturday in Kigali, Rwanda, former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer said corruption in agriculture sector and vested interests of politicians and government officials, have serious impact on food production.

Dr Frazer, who is also the managing partner of Africa Exchange Holdings, an organisation that supports farmers access to markets and assists on finance opportunities, said accountability in agriculture sector is key for Africa to eliminate perennial hunger.

ACCUMULATING MONEY

"A leader gets elected today and the following day starts accumulating money for the next election's campaigns. The few projects they implement are meant to attract votes and not to empower the people. Without accountability in agricultural sector, food insecurity will persist for decades to come," said Dr Frazer.

Former United Kingdom Prime Minister Tony Blair, while addressing the forum, said poor prioritisation, improper policies and mismanagement of resources in agriculture sector hurt food production in Africa.

"It is sad that millions of people in Africa still struggle to put food on the table despite having fertile land," said Mr Blair, who is also the executive chairman of Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.

DELAY AFRICA'S DREAM

Rockefeller Foundation President Rajiv Shah said corruption in agriculture sector could delay African's dream of achieving food security by 2030.

"It is a fact that corruption in agricultural sector is rampart and it needs strong leaders to uproot it," said Dr Shah.

He says if corruption is tackled properly, agricultural production could increase even in the face of climate change and other threats bedevilling the sector.

"If farmers apply the right fertilisers and governments use the available resources well, food production will improve in Africa," he added.

International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) president Gilbert Houngbo said most African countries mobilise a lot of resources but too little reach small-scale farmers who provide 80 per cent of food and agricultural products consumed on the continent.

MOBILISE RESOURCES

"African countries mobilise resources for development of agriculture but the greatest challenge is having them reach the ground.

Without putting the rural community at the centre of planning, Africa's goal of eradicating hunger in the next 12 years might remain a dream," said Mr Houngbo, who is also a former Prime Minister of Togo.

The African Union (AU,) during its 30th Assembly of Heads of State and Government held early this year in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, declared 2018 the year of fighting corruption, saying the vice is a hindrance to sustainable development.

The Africa Agriculture Status Report 2018 says many countries on the continent invest in big projects for quick kickbacks while neglecting small-scale farmers who feed the population.

ERADICATE POVERTY

The report warns that African nations will struggle to grow their economies and eradicate poverty unless they tie high-level political will to government action to help small-scale farmers.

In Kenya, corruption in agriculture sector, ranging from distribution of fake fertiliser to importation of contraband food products that flood the market, adversely affect local farmers.

Agriculture PS Richard Lesiyampe and former National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) managing director Newton Terer are currently facing corruption charges relating to a Sh5.6 billion maize purchase that saw thousands of farmers short-changed as cartels lined their pockets.

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