AfDB Partners with International Agencies to Boost Agricultural Production

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Abou sabaa

The African Development Bank (AfDB) is working in partnership with the International Agency for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to provide fertilizer at affordable prices to farmers in East Africa as part of measures to boost agricultural production in Africa.

Mr Aly Abou-Saaba, Director of Agriculture and Agro-Industries of the ADfB said at the forum on “The challenges of food security in Africa” in Dakar on Sunday, on the sidelines of the 2009 AfDB Group Annual Meetings, that the scheme, which is aimed at reducing the challenges faced by farmers in procuring fertilizer and other agricultural inputs, would be extended to the other regions of Africa.

Mr. Abou-Saba said that the Bank’s intervention in the various challenges facing agriculture in Africa, especially in the areas of infrastructure, would be done in collaboration with the African Union (AU) and some international agencies like the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), and IFAD, to avoid duplication of efforts and resources.

He said that the AfDB was working to reduce crop losses as well as the provision of water for agricultural production for the rural populace where the bulk of the small holder farmers reside. The Bank also recognizes the important role of the private sector in agricultural production in Africa and assured that the new African Agriculture Fund being proposed would attract more private sector involvement in agriculture.

For his part, Mr. Ousseini Salifou of IFAD said that the concept of providing support to small farmers had dramatically changed and that it had become a political issue.

Mr. Salifou said that the setting up of a high powered task force on agriculture by the Secretary General of the United Nations was a demonstration of the level of concern and interest by the UN in agriculture and the global food crisis.

He noted that food prices are still high in Africa and the other developing countries and that the driving force for the private investor in agriculture was the high prices of food and other agricultural commodities.

According to him, investment in agriculture attracts huge returns which can be four times more than any investment in any other sector.

Mr. Salifou noted the role agricultural sector could play in the reduction of poverty in Africa and suggested that the challenges facing more than 450 million small holder farmers in Africa should be addressed to increase growth in the sector.

He said that some of the challenges that needed urgent attention and investment included inefficient marketing system, property rights, limited access to finance, fragmentation of domestic and regional markets and lack of voice by the farmers. Mr. Gilles Peltier, Special Adviser to the Director General of the French Development Agency (AFD), said in his presentation that the new African Agriculture Fund would boost private sector involvement in agriculture.

Mr. Peltier said that the fund would “strengthen the financial structures of the private enterprises and cooperatives. It will consequently enhance their investment programmes to modernize and increase and diversify products,” he added.

He noted that few investment funds had been totally devoted to the agricultural sector in Africa and that the reason was that profitability before now remained well below expected performance and that the rise in food prices had become advantageous to investors in the sector.

He also said that the food crisis had attracted more funding to the agricultural sector by the international community and that the huge potential in Africa for agricultural production and export would further attract institutional and private investors to Africa.

Mr. Peltier disclosed that the AFD would be committing 200 million euros for investment in agricultural development in Africa and that the fund would be available for disbursement in 2010.