NewsNorth AfricaHunger-free in 2063 – Africa's powerful potential


Posted on Friday, 08 August 2014 15:08

Hunger-free in 2063 – Africa's powerful potential

By Sipho Moyo

The African agriculture story is one of poverty amidst plenty. 

With the world's largest share of arable land, 79% of it uncultivated, Africa has the resources to feed itself and the world. However, a quarter of all Africans experience the everyday reality of hunger.

African farmers use 11kg of fertiliser for every hectare, compared with 169kg in South Asia

Although rates of poverty have declined from 57% in 1990 to 49% in 2010, high population growth means that the number of people in poverty has continued to rise.

Today, 414 million Africans live in poverty.

I firmly believe that this reduction in poverty rates indicates that a hunger-free continent is within our grasp, provided the right policy and institutional frameworks are put in place.

Research conducted by the non-governmental organisation ONE shows that we can eradicate hunger in Africa by 2063 – just two generations from now – if we invest more and better.

According to a recent United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation study, agricultural growth in sub-Saharan Africa is estimated to be 11 times better in reducing poverty than that of other sectors.

Smallholder agriculture in particular adds greatly to economic development and food security.

In Africa, 65% of smallholder farmers produce 80% of the continent's food. They also contribute almost one-third of gross domestic product (GDP), with almost no government support or subsidies.

By investing in this sector, we can not only create sustainable jobs and increase exports, but we can also reduce poverty in rural areas.

A 1% increase in agricultural growth improves incomes by 2.7% for people in the lowest three income deciles.

Increased agriculture output decreases food prices, allowing poor people increased spending power.

By increasing agricultural productivity, we can also boost other sectors, such as manufacturing.

This is not just a pipe dream. Countries such as Burkina Faso and Ghana are already seeing promising results from more agricultural support.

Burkina Faso, where 90% of the population is employed in agriculture, has maintained an average economic growth rate of 5.5% for more than a decade.

Per capita GDP grew from $795 in 2000 to $1,116 in 2007 through gradual reforms of the cotton sector.

Farmers were able to participate in policy decisions, and the government partially liberalised markets.

Export earnings for the cotton sector rose and 235,000 new jobs were created. Poverty rates dropped from 62% in 2000 to 47% in 2007.

Similarly, Ghana's continued and consistent investment in agriculture has helped reduce poverty from 52% to 28% of the population and halve hunger rates.

The sector accounts for 30% of GDP and more than half of Ghanaian jobs.

Africa's current low productivity shows us the magnitude of its potential. Only 3% of arable land and 6% of farmland is irrigated, compared with 47% of Asian farmland.

On average, African farmers use 11kg of fertiliser for every hectare, compared with 169kg in South Asia. These statistics may seem daunting, but they should give us hope.

We have seen what agriculture investment, coupled with political will, can bring.

Ghana and Burkina Faso have very different economies, but they shared the same recipe for success: a commitment to agriculture sustained across government transitions, and the inclusion of civil society and farmers' representatives in policy formulation and implementation.

Last January, ONE launched the DO AGRIC, it Pays! campaign based on its report 'Ripe for Change: The Promise of Africa's Agricultural Transformation.'

This called on governments to implement an enhanced Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme.

The programme's policies were developed after lengthy consultations with farmers from all over the continent.

They include eliminating the gender gap and making time-bound commitments to spending at least 10% of national budgets on agricultural investments.

With the African Union summit in June, we must continue to strengthen our call to improve and enhance investment in agriculture. ●

Sipho Moyo, Africa executive director, ONE

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