AfDB urges governments to help African farmers with better technology
African governments need to boost agriculture on the continent to help feed the growing population by lending their support to technological advances, declared a senior representative of the African Development Bank (AfDB) at the African Economic Conference in Addis Ababa on Wednesday.
The AfDB’s principal evaluation officer, Guy Blaise Nkamleu, presented a paper on “Extensification versus Intensification: Revisiting the Role of Land in African Agriculture Growth” in the Ethiopian capital.
Nkamleu said that at a time when the world should be farming in a more green way, the current land use system and level of productivity in African agriculture was a cause for serious concern, and needed prompt action.
He urged governments to boost agricultural productivity by increasing support for the development and adoption of appropriate technologies in their countries.
According to Nkamleu, Africa’s agricultural sector practices were unsustainable with poor productivity and that such practices threatened the sector’s very existence unless concrete, corrective measures were taken.
“Though land productivity has increased over the years, its level and its growth rate is still small compared to what is needed to cope with population growth,” he said.
Recent studies show that for African countries, a 10 per cent increase in agricultural yield leads to a 9 per cent decrease in the percentage of those living on less than a dollar a day.
“Africa’s growth performance continues to challenge our understanding. But everybody seems to agree that growth in agriculture is strongly tied to the overall economic growth and poverty reduction,” Nkamleu observed.
Given that from 1990 to 2008, the proportion of arable land in use has increased by nearly almost four percent, he cautioned that vacant agricultural land could be exhausted in less than two hundred years.
“The reality is that African farmers might in the not too distant future no longer be able to find land for food production. Such fears are not illusory.”
Experts estimate that more than 1.1 billion hectares of Africa’s total land 2.9 billion hectares is used for agriculture.
“The issue of land is critical not only because of its role in economic development but also the social aspect; we need to protect it. Land use transformation is no longer a matter of a choice but a must for countries,” he said.
This requires the adoption of policies by governments to promote land intensification and this can be done by creating incentives for farmers,” said Maurice Tankou, Chief Agro-Economist, Agricultural Marketing and Support Services at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), one of the co-organisers of the conference.
For his part, Ouedraogo Issaka, from Burkina Faso’s agriculture, water and fisheries ministry, encouraged rural people to regroup into organizations in order to be more efficient.
“The management of agro-pastoral projects should be more transparent in order to increase their impact on the productivity of farmers’ organizations and on poverty alleviation.” he said, while presenting a paper on the impact of agro-pastoral projects on the productivity of farmers’ organizations using the case study of Cameroon.
The four-day conference is organized by the AfDB, UNECA and the United Nations Development Pogramme, on the theme ‘Green Economy and Structural Transformation’.