Africa prepares for a green revolution

By David Njagi

After what may have looked like a hopeless drain of agriculture opportunities for small scale farmers, an African led alliance is set to provide the much needed support to boost agricultural growth in the continent. At least, that is what the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) promises to do.

Led by Retired United Nations (UN) Secretary General, Koffi Annan, the alliance hopes to encourage small scale farming at the rural areas by offering a variety of farm incentives and subsidies.

Addressing the media during a press conference in Nairobi Mr. Annan assured African farmers that he would lead other African leaders in showcasing and sourcing for a market for the continent's agriculture overseas.

"Not everyone has to work in the city," said the former UN Secretary General, "agriculture is a very noble profession."

With AGRA's offices based in Nairobi, the Alliance hopes to take a traditional approach to Agriculture by encouraging conventional farming methods such as in seed propagation, a move that is likely to spin the final straw for Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) spread in the continent.

But it is the offer of credit lines and other farm incentives to small scale farmers that is likely to give farming in Kenya, and the rest of Africa, the much needed jolt. "The Alliance supported programme is set to expand to 30 districts in Kenya," said Mr. Annan.

According to Mr. Annan, AGRA has in its sights an ambitious roadmap that aims at strengthening agricultural markets, and using conventional breeding to develop seed varieties that are able to cope with stressful African climates.

While improving water use and soil health are also part of this roadmap, AGRA hopes to improve farmers' understanding of modern agriculture technology through extensive training.

Such an approach has been tested in Kenya's Western province, where a network of agrodealers is using the mobile phone technology to educate farmers about the importance of improved seed technology.

According to Saleem Esmail, the chief executive officer of Western Seed, the network has for instance, enabled farmers to travel less distances to purchase farm inputs, a move that did not go unnoticed by AGRA.

A subsidized agricultural system will put Africa into the global map, but could however, meet resistance from the heavily subsidized agrarian culture of the North, where the world's power houses are now turning to agriculture as a source of alternative energy to fossil fuels.

According to scientific reports, demand for corn, or what is grown as maize in Africa, has gone up in the United States of America (USA), as scientists experiment with various varieties hoping to extract ethanol.

But with the ever dynamic international trade regulations that have sort of taken Africa through a rough passage in the global markets, it still remains unclear whether the overseas markets would be willing to vouch for resources in Africa, were the green revolution to cause a swell of food reserves in the continent.

Recent trends in the global market however, such as the food miles debate, which is making overseas traders fidget with a long distance agriculture purchase, shows a different picture. But AGARA hopes to change that.

"We will meet small scale farmers across Africa to learn from them and to hear their ideas for change," says Mr. Annan, "at the same time, I will be working closely with our partners, including Heads of States, multilateral and bilateral organisations and the civil society."

If what AGRA scripts read are anything to go by, the green revolution hopes to introduce farmers to agro ecological approaches to farming. Agro ecology, AGRA says, will promote intensive use of organic matter and apply fertilizers sparingly.

While the rate of deforestation in Africa is 200 per cent, small scale farms account for more than 70 per cent agricultural production. Less than 5 per cent of the land is under irrigation.

The first green revolution in Asia and Latin America, history says, lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, while it doubled food production.

During the 12th Heads of States Common Market for Eastern and South Africa (COMESA) summit held in Nairobi in May this year, the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development programme (CAADP) resolved to establish a regional agriculture development fund to solve Africa's food insecurity.

No comments:

google pagerank checker by smallseotools.com