AfDB 2012 Agriculture Strategy to Focus on Drought Resilience Building Programme
Food security challenges in the horn of Africa, regional drought resilience building programme, climate change and green development, were among key issues discussed by experts in the African Development Bank’s Agriculture and Agro-industry Department (OSAN) during their recent meeting in Tunis.
Presenting the department’s 2011 balance sheet, its director, Abdirahman Beileh, highlighted prevailing challenges and opportunities in the sector. He emphasized the need to continue improving the agriculture portfolio, as agriculture is the main source of livelihoods in Regional Member Countries (RMCs). Mr. Beileh pointed out that the implementation of drought resilience projects in the Horn of Africa will be one of the Bank’s main challenges in 2012. He further specified that the AfDB Group has pledged a USD 300-million development package to help the region. “The programme is intended to put in place long-term resilience building in those countries suffering from drought,” he affirmed.
The Horn of Africa is currently experiencing the most severe food crisis in the world, with over 12 million people in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia severely affected and urgently in need of humanitarian aid, according to Bank reports. The reports further reveal that people in need of urgent humanitarian aid could increase by as much as 25% during the next three to four months, while the situation may even worsen in Southern and Central Somalia in the coming six months.
For his part, OSAN Lead Expert, Benedict Kanu, gave estimates of the level of investments required to finance agriculture to meet regional growth and poverty reduction targets in the continent. «Very small amount of the available domestic private sector financing typically goes into agriculture, in spite of the widely acknowledged fact that agriculture employs at least 70% of Africa’s labor force,” he explained. He also said: “Africa would need between US$32 billion and US$39 billion annually to achieve the full economic potential of its farm sector… These resource requirements are enormous and we need to rethink the way we finance agriculture by making our public sector instruments better meet the current realities…,” he explained.
Mr. Kanu suggested that the Bank should boldly take on a variety of engagements aimed at looking beyond conventional sources of financing and lessening the risks of lending to agriculture, including among others, developing new and more appropriate public and private sector financial products and exploring alternative resource mobilization sources such as India, Brazil, China and Argentina.
For his part, Principal Agro-industry Specialist, Damian Onyema Ihedioha, spoke on how the Bank can concretely move its agriculture agenda forward while promoting job creation. He cited job creation and economic transformation activities inherent in agriculture particularly with cottage industries and agro-processing firms that are operated informally. In his viewpoint, in order to unlock the economic potential in agriculture, there is need for a new financial instrument to fill the gap not addressed by public and private sector financing. “The Bank should set up a financial mechanism to fill this gap, otherwise support for agriculture will not engender needed broad-based economic development,” he added.