Farming in Africa: Time to Debunk Some Myths

New technologies and ideas – from mobile phone information systems to new crop varieties – are rapidly transforming agriculture across Africa. Yet the sector continues to be stereotyped as one synonymous with poverty and subsistence.

Simply put, people don’t believe it will pay a proper wage, let alone their children’s school fees or health bills. Farming is seen as a dead-end job, something definitely of no interest to aspiring youth.Following the theme of this year’s Annual Letter by Bill and Melinda Gates, I would like to debunk the myth that Africa’s farmers will always be poor.

In fact, there are huge opportunities for farmers. Yields of staple crops have steadily increased over the past decade and there is potential for them to increase by two or even three times more.

This would have a tremendous impact on farmers, their families, communities and economies. Research from around the world shows that every one percent growth in crop yields leads to a 0.8 percent fall in the number of people living in absolute poverty.

Nor is agricultural and income growth small picture stuff. There are strong links between growth in agriculture and growth in the wider economy. Every U.S. $1 generated in income in agriculture created U.S.$1.88 in the wider economy in Burkina Faso, and U.S. $1.50 in Zambia. Agricultural growth is eleven times more effective in reducing poverty than growth in any other sector.

It is youth and women who have critical roles in delivering this progress. There are many examples of young Africans launching exciting new projects in agriculture – from radio programs that give advice to farmers, to new mobile phone platforms that provide them with the latest market prices.

A great deal has been documented about the obstacles faced by women farmers but not enough about the economic gains that could come from removing these obstacles. A 20 to 30 percent increase in yields and hundreds of millions of people lifted out of poverty globally could be delivered.

Of course, for this myth to be truly debunked, the right conditions need to be in place for farmers to seize opportunities and make a good living.

That is why civil society across Africa – supported by NGOs like ONE and ActionAid, and individuals like Nigerian singer D’Banj – have come together as part of the #DoAgric campaign to ask governments to provide the support necessary to enable farmers to make a good living.

We are now ten years down the road from the Maputo Declaration, in which African governments committed themselves to allocate ten percent of their national budgets to agricultural development. But while there have been really impressive results, some countries aren’t on track.

A decade on from that historic declaration, it is time for African governments to renew their commitments to develop agriculture.

Increasing funding is vital.  We also need to address areas previously overlooked, such as removing barriers to intra-regional trade and establishing mechanisms to minimize the loss of revenue caused by poor post-harvest management.

African civil society is also pressing governments for much more rigorous monitoring and evaluation of what’s happening in agriculture on the ground. After all, it is only when we know where progress is taking place that we can allocate greater resources to areas where there are shortfalls.

Addressing these challenges, and others, is the key to unlocking the rich potential of African farmers, lifting millions out of poverty and driving wider prosperity.

This July’s African Union summit provides the opportunity to commit that support and kill off once and for all the myth that Africa’s farmers will always be poor.

Mercy Karanja is a Senior Program Officer and Senior Regional Advisor to East Africa for Agricultural Development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  she  grew up on a farm in Kenya. She and her nine siblings went to school on account of their parents farming activities.

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CAADP Agricultural Technical Vocational Education and Training (ATVET )

Five success factors of large-scale skills development in agriculture

In 2012, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Planning and Coordinating Agency (NPCA) launched a new project, “Promotion of Technical Vocational Education and Training for the Agricultural Sector in Africa (CAADP ATVET)” with the support of the German Government through GIZ. The project is expected to have a total duration of six to seven years. In a first two-year phase (2012/2013) the programme will work at a continental level (NPCA) and in two pilot countries (Ghana and Kenya). The aim will be to develop and implement market-oriented qualification measures, as well as coherent concepts to incorporate agricultural technical vocational training components into the national education systems. The expansion of value chain approaches in development strategies calls for the adequate qualification both of the value chain actors and the implementing institutions.


CAADP ATVET helps to create more coherent policies for agricultural education and training in Africa, particularly for women and young people who are the most valuable asset for Africa’s future. CAADP ATVET fills a thematic gap in the current CAADP process and has a strong potential to contribute to achieving the CAADP goals of agricultural sector growth, generating rural income and reducing poverty.

The project objective is to integrate agricultural vocational and technical education into the CAADP process of selected countries. The project focuses on three support areas, namely:

– Knowledge management and survey of approaches, sharing of information and best practices of ATVET in Africa;

– Anchoring of ATVET in the African Union (AU) structures and in the CAADP country processes;

– Developing and assessing of pilot qualification measures for farmers, the youth, employed persons and service providers at a national level.

Enhancing agricultural qualification through CAADP ATVET will eventually improve the job perspectives in African agricultural value chains. Business and technical skills and abilities which meet private sector needs are important to further promote the implementation of national agricultural investment plans at country level.

For whom and with whom?

ATVET is mainstreamed in the CAADP process. The bilateral GIZ programmes in the implementing countries offer technical support to the countries. The aim is to design appropriate measures to address the gaps in the vocational and technical education within the agricultural investment plans with the cooperation of the CAADP team and agricultural private sector associations, individual private companies, farmer organisations, training service providers and development partners.

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Regional Workshop on “Engaging Youth in the Implementation Phase of the CAADP Transformation Agenda – KIS” in Accra, Ghana!

Regional Workshop in Accra for engaging youth in the CAADP process Join in the Discussions using the hash-tag #FARAyouth on twitter


fara_logo1iThe Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) is organising a Regional Workshop on “Engaging Youth in the Implementation Phase of the CAADP Transformation Agenda – KIS” on 9-10 May 2013 at the FARA Headquarters in Accra, Ghana.

The meeting will look at the entire CAADP country and regional policy processes, and identify innovative approaches for making job creation for young people a top priority of the AFSIPs that Africa countries are currently developing.

The Workshop will bring together youth, youth leaders, and policymakers including CAADP Country Team Leaders to articulate a workable strategy for effectively engaging youth along the implementation phase of the CAADP Transformation Agenda – KIS.

YPARD Africa will partner in this initiative, bringing together key youths in agricultural development in Africa. By working with representatives from an established youth network, continuity and long term strategies related to youth and the CAADP can be tasked to these…

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