Interview with AfDB Agriculture and Agro-Industry Director, Mr. Ali Abou-Sabaa
The 2010-2014 Agricultural Sector Strategy (AgSS) is building on the Bank’s on-going approach to financing agricultural infrastructure and renewable natural resources. It will step up efforts in building healthy pipelines in this direction, including mobilizing additional bilateral resources towards supporting economic and sector analytical work in key areas, including fisheries and livestock infrastructure
Question: How relevant is the AgSS to the current global economic and financial crisis affecting many Bank Group clients (RMCs)?
Answer: Agricultural growth is a proven driver of poverty reduction. The current global economic and financial crises affecting many Bank Group clients have clearly demonstrated that poverty and food insecurity go hand-in-hand. Thus the AgSS seeks to position the Bank to effectively play a visible role in contributing to a broader goal of greater agricultural productivity, food security and poverty reduction. This is done through support to, among others, infrastructure-oriented agricultural interventions, including construction of rural roads, rural and urban commodity markets, proving rural energy and protecting the fragile environment. The AgSS approach reckons that by developing agricultural infrastructure and operating within the realm of Bank Group strategies and regional initiatives, the Bank will contribute to the creation of market and new opportunities for growth, more robust, competitive and diversified economies, and attract new investment resources to the sector. These efforts are critical to minimizing the negative impact of the crises on the RMCS.
Question: The document was produced after wide consultations and in-depth analytical work. How much of these inputs emanated from African farmers and agricultural bodies?
Answer: Smallholder farmers provided areas where their needs can be better addressed in the AgSS, and how private sector interventions will assist the smallholder (the substantive private sector) as well as the bigger commercial farmers, without affecting the interests of either group. By focusing on these needs, the Bank will be in a position to assist the farmers become more commercialized by improving their access to the market and adding value to their products. Prior to finalizing the document, a stakeholders’ workshop was organized here in Tunis. The workshop participants included Regional Farmers’ Networks and other agricultural bodies that have made significant contributions to the analytical works at the country and Regional Economic Communities (RECs) levels, which were part of the input for preparation of the AgSS. In addition, consultations at the Field Office level also included African farmers and agricultural agencies.
Question: Agricultural infrastructure and renewable resource management are the two mutually reinforcing pillars underpinning the AgSS. How do these improve African agriculture and food security?
Answer: When trunk roads are linked by feeder roads, they open up areas of agricultural potential, and thereby maximize the benefits from both. Roads connect the rural population to their farms, increasing movement of agricultural commodities from areas of production to areas of consumption. Reduction in post harvest losses, through better supply chain, will help achieve food security by saving food and improving supply; with immediate effect on increasing agricultural productivity, and hence improving the income and quality of life. And of course renewable natural resources management will ensure sustainability of investments in agricultural infrastructure.
Question: Low agricultural productivity has largely been attributed to over-dependence on rain-fed cropping and inappropriate land-tenure systems in Africa. How does the strategy address these issues?
As envisaged in the AgSS, the Bank will channel support to agricultural water development, and increased water storage capacity. Increased water storage capacity in Africa destined for multi-purpose uses (irrigation, domestic use, livestock watering, fisheries, etc) will lead to increased agricultural productivity. Additionally, the Bank-AU-ECC Framework and guidelines on Land Policy in Africa, provides an opportunity for Bank to help RMCs respond to the challenges of managing land resources.
Question: Surely the huge investment reuqured to uplift African Agricuture would require building partnerships and support from outside. How will the Bank mobilize funds for the sector?
Answer: The Bank will leverage its resources and allocations to the RMCs to attract additional funding from other development partners and regional institutions, through co-financing arrangements. In line with its selectivity principle, the Bank will focus more on Pillars 1 (water mobilization and irrigation) and 2 (market and trade) of the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) based on our comparative advantage. The Bank will encourage other partners to provide funding for Pillars 3 and 4 as outlined in the Ag.SS.
The approval of the Ag.SS by the Board is just the beginning of the work ahead. The next phase is to operationalize the strategy. The Board did provide Management with a number of guidelines moving forward. The Agriculture and Agro-industry Department (OSAN) is currently working on three guiding documents: the Water Business Plan; the Framework Paper on Reduction of Post Harvest Losses in Africa; and the Framework Paper for institutional capacity building for Ministries of Agriculture, RECs and related institutions. The AgSS is building on the Bank’s on-going approach to financing agricultural infrastructure and renewable natural resources. It will step up efforts in building healthy pipelines in this direction, including mobilizing additional bilateral resources towards supporting economic and sector analytical work in key areas, including fisheries and livestock infrastructure.