Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Dr. Akinwumi Adesina explains why Agriculture must not be seen as a development program

Various foodstuffs including cereals displayed at one of the stands at the 2014 Kakamega ASK show.

Africa has enormous agricultural potential. About 65% of the arable lands left to feed the 9 billion people in the world by 2050 are in Africa. We must unlock this potential.

To do so, we must make a fundamental shift in how we see agriculture.

Agriculture must not be seen as a development program. Agriculture is a business. And agricultural research must take this business perspective. Policy makers too must change and develop policies to take technologies to scale for farmers.

As African nations strive for higher levels of investment in agricultural research, science and technology, they also need to put in consideration the following issues:

  • Focus must be on the imperative of creating markets for farmers, taking a whole value chain, and investing in new product development to add value to crops. Unless this is given priority farmers will take up new technologies and price for their farm products will decline. 
  • To  ensure adoption by farmers at scale requires public policies that will increase access of farmers to seeds; fertilizers and irrigation support to ensure the optimal yield performance of the new crop varieties, as well as improved seed systems that will provide quality seeds to farmers.
  • The need to have supportive policies to drive impacts of science and technology. The challenge is always how to ensure that poor farmers benefit from technical change. 
  • Greater focus should be put into the use of innovative finance instruments to reduce the risks financial institutions face in lending to agriculture. Solving this financial imperative will help drive the uptake of products of agricultural research, raise returns to agricultural research investments and drive sustainable growth of the agriculture sector.
Read: AU 2003 Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security
  • Public policies should support farmers to take up crop and livestock insurance, as these are beyond the reach of many poor farmers. We must not abandon farmers in the face of climate change. 
  • The future of Africa depends on what we do with our kids today. A hungry child cannot learn and a malnourished kid will become brain impaired, with low-income earnings in the future.

Experts from Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, Honourable Minister of Agriculture of Nigeria at the High Policy Dialogue on “Research to Feed Africa”, September 1, 2014, Sheraton Hotel, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.