Jacques Diouf, the Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation has said that in order to reverse the 45 million undernourished people in Africa, end hunger in the region, lift millions out of extreme poverty and to achieve and sustain Africa’s economic growth, what is required is nothing less than an African Green Revolution.
In a statement issued by the FAO Banjul office on the address of the Director General on Green Revolution for Africa, Mr. Diouf said Africa is the only region in the world where agricultural productivity has been largely stagnant. He said, yields of maize and other staple cereals typically remain at about 1.0 ton per hectare and about half of those achieved in Asia and Latin America, while in the years ahead global warming is expected seriously to exacerbate current constraints on African farmers.
He said that, fortunately, Africa already posses the know-how and the scientific and technological tools required to achieve the above objectives. He added that, after nearly two decades during which aid to agriculture was regarded as the poor relation of development assistance, the international community and the Africans themselves have come round to recognise its central role.
“Significantly, the World Bank’s World Development Report 2008 will, for the first time in 25 years, focus on the role of agriculture in development. On the African side, governments are actively working to honour their 2003 Maputo Declaration to commit ten percent of their budgets to the agricultural sector. Now we know from experience that, the top-down application of science and technology will not work” he said.
He then observed that Africa’s Green Revolution must therefore be homegrown. “The four I’s needed to derive it are;
- Infrastructure- as heavy investment in irrigation and water management are essential in sub-Saharan Africa, where less than four percent of the total arable land is currently irrigated.
- Incentives- African governments hold give priority to sound national agricultural policies and adjust to new international trade regimes through revised pricing and trade policies. The creation of more open access to markets and fair and predictable prices for produce are important to enable production increase on the African continent.
- Innovation- new technologies and farming systems are essential, while it is also crucial that ways are found to make knowledge more easily accessible to the smallholder farmer in an affordable and sustainable manner.
- Institutions- there is an urgent need for strengthened national institutions that facilitate productivity enhancement and the functioning of commercial agricultural markets.
Mr. Diouf further noted that, it must be recognised that given the wide variety of agro-ecological zones and farming systems existing in Africa, there is no ‘one size’ solution. He said that Africa’s Green Revolution although continental in design, must be context-specified in implementation. He added that, it must also give pride of place to smallholders in a context where seven out of ten people live in rural areas.
He then noted that, the recent data on African agricultural production indicates that, the revolution may already have begun and it must be allowed to gather force to roll on despite the new challenges of global warming and bio-energy.
The FAO boss asserted that by definition, Africans themselves are the leading protagonists in the process; a significant contribution will be required of the International community. He then observed that, a good way to start would be for the G8 countries to start delivering on their commitment to double aid to Africa between 2004 and 2010.