government

Increased agricultural investments in Africa, an absolute necessity

 

Ten years ago, African leaders peered into the future and decided to plan ahead. They agreed to invest at least 10% of their national budgets into Agriculture in what is called the Maputo Declaration. Unfortunately, so far, only a handful of countries have lived up to that promise.

These include Ghana, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mali and Burkina-Faso. Others, in contrast, are yet to fulfill this agreement. Nigeria, for example, has reduced its allocation annually, with a mere 1.47% allocated to agriculture in the year 2014. The question, therefore, is what needs to be done?

Poverty, hunger, food insecurity and wastage are sadly characteristics that African countries – like Nigeria my country – all have in common. This is indeed sad because Africa is blessed with all we require to feed ourselves and the rest of the world. Aside this is the increasing youth unemployment that is becoming an increasing burden to our economies. All these are issues we all know and have many times discussed. But of course we cannot keep dwelling on problems.

Less talk, more action

So let’s talk about solutions. In my opinion, the examples of successful African countries need to be studied carefully and, if possible, copied. The viable policies, implementation plans, programs and projects underpinning these successes should be replicated especially among countries in the same region with similar socioeconomic conditions. There is also a need to move from paying lip service to actions that show a true sense of commitment to agricultural investment. As a young person I must mention the need for viable empowerment programmes for the youth in agriculture.

Solutions driven policies

Governments need to pay attention to the next generation of farmers who are highly energetic and also interestingly trying to find a path in the sector. This will also help dispel some of the negative impressions around agriculture. Our leaders need to develop solution driven policies that will create an enabling environment for these young people looking to create a future through farming.

They also need to develop partnerships and collaborations with the private sector for the capacity-building of youth and women in agriculture, develop the value chain, improve access to market locally, regionally and globally. Governments also need to be proactive in providing infrastructure that make rural economies beneficial for agri-producers and other rural dwellers. Of course a better ICT-driven extension service that will let all players in the sector have prompt access to needed information is also of high importance.

In investing in agriculture, African countries have a lot to benefit. Poverty alleviation, massive employment generation, women empowerment, foreign exchange and trade, quality nutrition for citizens and of course the ability to not only feed themselves but others. Doing agriculture by increasing investment in the sector should not be an option; it is indeed a necessity that must be paid attention to more than ever before. Our leaders need to move on from just admitting agriculture is important but also take all required action to increase investment and transform the sector. They just have to DO AGRIC.

This blog post by the author was first published on the ONE Campaign website

ONE is campaigning for African leaders to keep their promises to invest in Agriculture. Join the campaign and sign our DO Agric petition now.

9 ways to engage youth in agriculture

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In Africa over 200 million people are aged between 15 and 24, the youngest population in the world. This age group according to the African Economic Outlooks is expected to double in number by 2045. Low profitability, poor security of land tenure, and high risks are just some of the reasons Africa’s youth are leaving rural areas to seek jobs in cities, a migration that could see Africa with a shortage of farmers in the future. Given that agriculture is one of the continent’s biggest economic sectors, generating broad economic development and providing much of the population with food, this poses a serious threat to the future of farming and to meeting the demands of a rapidly growing urban population. Growing youth unemployment, aging farmers and declining crop yields under traditional farming systems mean engaging youth in agriculture should be a priority.

Recent articles highlight this key challenge and suggest solutions for making agriculture more attractive to younger generations.

1)      Link social media to agriculture

The rise of social media and its attraction among young people with access to the appropriate technologies could be a route into agriculture if the two could be linked in some way. Mobile phone use in Africa is growing rapidly and people are now much more connected to sources of information and each other. Utilising these channels to promote agriculture and educate young people could go a long way in engaging new groups of people into the sector.

2)      Improve agriculture’s image

Farming is rarely portrayed in the media as a young person’s game and can be seen as outdated, unprofitable and hard work. Greater awareness of the benefits of agriculture as a career needs to be built amongst young people, in particular opportunities for greater market engagement, innovation and farming as a business. The media, ICT and social media can all be used to help better agriculture’s image across a broad audience and allow for sharing of information and experiences between young people and young farmers.

3)      Strengthen higher education in agriculture

Relatively few students choose to study agriculture, perhaps in part because the quality of agricultural training is mixed. Taught materials need to be linked to advances in technology, facilitate innovation and have greater relevance to a diverse and evolving agricultural sector, with a focus on agribusiness and entrepreneurship. Beyond technical skills, building capacity for management, decision-making, communication and leadership should also be central to higher education. Reforms to agricultural tertiary education should be designed for young people and as such the process requires their direct engagement.

4)      Greater use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)

Not only can ICT be used to educate and train those unable to attend higher education institutions but it can be used as a tool to help young people spread knowledge, build networks, and find employment. Catering to a technologically savvy generation will require technological solutions. Such technologies can also reduce the costs of business transactions, increasing agriculture’s profitability.

5)      Empower young people to speak up

If we are to enable youth to transform agriculture then the barriers to their engagement, such as access to land and finance, need to be addressed. National policies on farming and food security need to identify and address issues facing young people. As such youth need to become part of policy discussions at the local and national levels, whether as part of local development meetings, advisory groups or on boards or committees.

The Young Professionals for Agricultural  Development (YPARD) aims to provide a platform for young people to discuss opportunities in agricultural development, share experiences and advocate for greater youth engagement and representation.

6)      Facilitate access to land and credit

Land is often scarce and difficult to access for young people, and without collateral getting credit to buy land is nigh on impossible. Innovative financing for agriculture and small businesses is needed. For example soft loans provided to youth who come up with innovative proposals in agriculture or microfranchising.

7)      Put agriculture on the school curricula

Primary and high school education could include modules on farming, from growing to marketing crops. This could help young people see agriculture as a potential career. Farm Africa run a project aiming to help school children discover more about agriculture as a profession.

8)      Greater public investment in agriculture

Young people may see agriculture as a sector much neglected by the government, giving farming the image of being old fashioned. Investment in agriculture is more effective at reducing poverty than investment in any other sector but public expenditure on agriculture remains low. Regional and continent-wide programmes such as the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) may go some way in transforming the prominence and reputation of agriculture in Africa but national efforts and public investments are also needed.

9)      Make agriculture more profitable

This is an easy statement to make but a difficult one to realise. Low yields and market failures in Africa reduce the potential of agriculture to be profitable and to provide people with a chance of escaping poverty and improving their quality of life. Making agriculture profitable requires that the costs of farming and doing business are reduced while at the same time productivity increases. Although large-scale commercial farming springs to mind, this is not necessarily the case, and small farms can be highly productive with low labour costs.

Of course all of these solutions come with their own hurdles: access to education and technologies, rural development, land rights etc. But as one article states “Africa has the highest number of youth in the whole world, and some of the most fertile soils – the two combined could be a force to promote agricultural development!“ Foregoing engaging youth in agriculture and the potential for transformation this could bring because of the complexities of modernising agriculture would be a huge opportunity lost.

Can you add to this list? If you know of any ways or projects to help youth engage in agriculture, we’d love to hear your thoughts.

First published here

Agricultural Extension Service in Africa: THE BIG PICTURE

 

A representative from DuPont Pioneer talks about the particular variety of maize that Pioneer recommends for this agro-ecological zone at a demonstration plot in Zimbabwe.

According to Volker Hoffman, an agricultural economist and an expert on extension at Hohenheim University, Germany, governments should not be directly engaged in the provision of extension services, which can be more efficiently managed by private legal entities. Before now, in the 1960s and 1970s state run, state funded extension and advisory service played a key role in getting information and new technologies to farmers.

However, the structural adjustment programmes introduced by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) led to a significant reduction in the funds available for agricultural service delivery. At the same time, the portion of official development assistance devoted to agriculture declined from 17 percent in 1980 to 3 per cent by 2006, and this has a profound effect on national extension and advisory services

WHERE THE PROBLEM LIES.

Volker further stated that government extension has continued to suffer from a number of shortcomings. According to him, government tend to be bureaucratic and in efficient. Instead of consulting farmers about their needs, government extension agents generally decide what is best for them and that there is often conflict of roles , with government extension agents acting as advisors, policemen, and arbiters about whether or not farmers should receive subsidies or other assistance. This inevitably leads to a lack of trust between extension agents and farmers.

A statistical comparison in the productivity of farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa with those of East Asai shows that in 1961, average cereal yields were around 1 tonne per hectare in Sub- Saharan Africa and 1.4 tonnes in East Asia. Yield in Sub-Saharan Africa has barely risen since then, whereas, in East Asia farmers now average more than 5 tonnes per hectare. This leads to associating low agricultural productivity with high level of poverty and hunger. In 1981 and 2005, the number of people living on less than 1.25USD a day in Sub- Saharan Africa grew from 212 to 388 million; in East Asia, the number fell from 1,071 million to 316 million.

The SOLUTION…

Therefore, in order to curb the inefficiency and the passive role of the extension service, Hoffmann suggest that the government should continue to determine policy, regulate how extension services operate and ensure that farmers receive good, sound and applicable advice. However, it should reduce it direct engagement in providing services or input to farmers and this should be left to other service providers such as private companies and non- governmental organisations.

Many stakeholders also broadly agreed that extension services should be provided free of charge for smallholder farmers while commercial farmers are to pay for such services. Also noteworthy is the fact that farmers require not just high-quality agricultural advice but also health services, transport, communications, credit and remunerative markets

In order to move in the direction of farmers’ needs, it is now widely accepted that the move towards more pluralistic, demand driven, innovative, cost effective systems of delivery in which advisory services are combined with better access to credit, farm inputs and the market, has the potential to improve the welfare of smallholder farmers, reduce rural poverty and increase food production.

Photo source- FEED THE FUTURE Flicker photo stream

AGRA plans policy, regulation reforms to transform agribusiness in Africa.

Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), on Tuesday 10th December 2013 in Nairobi, announced a five-year project that seeks to increase incomes of smallholder farmers through the creation of an enabling policy environment in Africa.

The initiative –Micro Reforms for African Agribusiness (MIRA) – will identify, prioritize and reform specific agricultural policies and regulations
that currently deter or limit private investment in small- and medium-sized agribusinesses operating in smallholder agricultural value chains.

A release from the body said “Over a period of five years, AGRA aims to motivate at least 25 significant
policies or regulatory reforms in selected countries, leading to measurable increases in private sector
investment in local agribusinesses.

“The project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, is expected to increase the number of smallholder farmers accessing improved technologies supplied by agribusinesses operating in local staple food value chains. It will also help them access stable, predictable income generating market opportunities”.
According to the release “This enhanced access to input and output markets is in turn expected to lead
to increased smallholder productivity and incomes, and reduced poverty for smallholder farm- dependent families”.

Continuing AGRA President Ms. Jane Karuku said “We are very excited about this new initiative. It will help African Governments unlock agricultural potential in their countries by supporting their efforts to develop progressive agricultural policies that will attract increased private investment in smallholder agricultural value chains. The initiative aims reform retrogressive agricultural regulations that deter rather than encourage such
investment”.

According to Dr. Steven Were Omamo, AGRA’s Director of Policy and Advocacy, “The MIRA project will provide African Governments with access to high quality local and international technical assistance for identifying, prioritizing and reforming
specific agricultural regulations”. Current regulations often discourage private investment in small- and medium-sized agribusinesses that serve the needs of smallholder farmers.

The project will help build the capacity of African Government leaders and analysts to make better- informed, economically-robust assessments and
decisions about which regulations need to be reformed in order to facilitate increased private investment in smallholder value chains.

The MIRA project has four key objectives:
1. to strengthen African Governments’ demand for regulatory
reforms, by supporting efforts to identify and assess regulations that unintentionally limit private sector
investment in smallholder value chains;
2. to support African Governments’ efforts to reform regulations that limit private sector investment in smallholder value chains;
3. to promote reformed regulations to local and international private sector investors, in order to raise awareness about improved agribusiness-enabling environments in Africa;
3. and to enhance the capacity and commitment of African Governments to continuously review, assess and reform regulations that limit private sector investment in smallholder value chains.

It said that by the end of the project, three major outcomes are expected:
1. reformed agricultural policies and regulations creating more conducive
environments for private sector investment in local agribusinesses operating smallholder value chains
in five countries;
2. increased private sector investment in the “throughput capacity” of existing and new local agribusinesses – those supplying inputs to smallholders and/or purchasing farm outputs from them;
3. and at least 25 significant policy or regulatory reforms that induce measurable increases in private sector investment in local agribusinesses operating in smallholder agrifood
value chains.

Sourced from Vanguard News Paper.

YOUTH RAISE THEIR VOICES FOR SMALL-SCALE FARMERS THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA

As a follow up to a capacity building program for youth by HEDA Resources Centre in collaboration with OXFAM in Nigeria and the government of the State of Osun with the theme “Promoting Youth Centred Activities in Raising Awareness and Mobilizing Public Support For Food Security And Livelihood Protection” in October 2012. The participants decided to use Social Media to raise their voices on behalf of the small-scale farmers in Nigeria. The social media network Twitter was used in showcasing the plight of these food producers all over Nigeria and practical solutions suggested.

 

The Campaign tagged “Youth Voice 4 Small Scale Farmers” (YV4SSF) was held between 28th and 30th of January 2013. Using the hash tag #yv4ssf a pre-campaign awareness was done to let online users and other young people and stakeholders join in the campaign .The youths had blog post prepared, reflecting the role of smallholders, what they go through and the need to support them so as to ensure food security. They also drew lessons from their visits to small scale farmers during the program in October 2012.

 

WHAT DO THE SMALL SCALE FARMERS NEED?

From the various interactions during the 3 days of the campaign here are a few of the numerous needs highlighted

  • ·         Irrigation plans and system- this was repeatedly raised by a group of farmers from Abuja with the twitter handle @irrfaraa
  • ·         Good road networks and other infrastructure that would make movement and marketing of goods possible
  • ·         More private sector involvement needed so as to enable sales of produce
  • ·         Argo-processing centers, to enable them add value their produce
  • ·         Re-packaged extension workers and services that are up-to-date and meet the needs of the farmers
  • ·         Policies have to be revisited to reflect enabling environment for the small scale farmers to strive
  • ·         Proper land tenure systems that favor long time occupation were also stresses.

ROLE OF SOCIAL MEDIA

The social media tool TWITTER really proved helpful. Not only did it serve as a means to let the message get heard, it allowed for more and more people aside the about 20 youths who set out to carry out the campaign.

Tweets were also directed to relevant stakeholders be it individuals or organizations who have a role to play in ensuring that the changes needed for the small scale farmers are met.

As of the second day of the campaign, a total of 224 tweets were sent out, 419,106 impressions made with an audience of 364,848 with lot of mentions and re-tweet. This show how far reaching the social media can go and thus a good tool in advocacy, capacity building and inclusion especially in agriculture.

What Next

The small scale farmers are the major food producers in Nigeria and they not only need to be heard they need to be listened to and action taken. The small scale farmers need to be helped to produce more and have better livelihood for themselves and the generation to come. This campaign also serves as a wake-up call to the younger generation that lot of work is available to be done in the Nigerian Agricultural Sector. There is also need to start giving attention to the next generation of farmers, researchers, extension workers and agriculture policy makers who would reshape affairs so as to have a food secure country in the near future to come.

 

You can read more of the matters raised during the campaign by searching for Hash tag #yv4ssf on twitter. You can also read about the HEDA Centre Program here.

THE ENTERPRENEUR UNDER 25 (EU-25) FORUM ON AGRIC-BUSINESS

On April 29 2012, fifteen (15) young men and women came together to discuss on the future of agriculture and agric-business in Nigeria.

The EU-25 is a monthly entrepreneur forum which is done over lunch where entrepreneurs under the age of 25 come together to discuss on how effectively create change positively. The EU-25 is put together by the Olusola Amusan Company (OAC).

The month of April 2012, focused on Agriculture and how youth can transform the sector. The facilators were two young farmers; Mr. Ajifola Afolabi of NETIVA Farms and Mr. Olalekan Bankole a fish farmer and a consultant with the Ondo State Government on Agric matters.

During the introduction, Moses Ogunyemi, who is a student and a poultry farmer acknowledged the growing population of Nigeria and the need for people to be feed at all times. Thus stressing the need for we the youth to take charge and transform agriculture in Nigeria.

Olalekan Bankole, a graduate of Forestry and Wood Technology and a Fish farmer elaborated on the challenges faced especially in the Agric-business in Nigeria and as it relates to youth.

Some of them are:

  • Lack of interest on the part of youth to engage in agriculture. An example was a Local Government Area in Ondo State, Nigeria, where having set up a tomato paste processing plant, the government asked that the youth in the community joins hands to work together on a tomato plantation so as to get the raw materials and the youth refused because they saw it as work for the poor. Most young ones have no passion for agriculture. They want quick money.
  • Low number of agro-based industry.
  • Inconsistent weather for arable crop farmers.
  • Need for more machineries.
  • Unfavorable government policies as it relates to accessing funds and land acquisition.
  • A large gap between Academics & Research and what happens on the field.

The group moved on to discuss some the way out. Afolabi Ajifola of NETIVA Foods shed light on how to make use of the few opportunities open to us as agropreneurs effectively such as

  • Ways to access loan from the Bank of Agriculture, Nigeria
  • Ways to get access to farm machineries to work on farm lands through the Ministry of Agriculture and other bodies and organizations.

At the end of the forum, the 15 young people agreed to the following sets ways to improve and transform agricultural development in Nigeria:

 

  • Massive sensitization of Nigerian youth on the need to get involved in Agricultural development and the benefits that comes from it.
  • Initiation of an Agroclub to aid networking of young farmers.
  • The need to be more information and opportunity conscious and make proper use of the internet for effective sensitization and information dissemination as it relate to agriculture and agric-business.
  • Creating networks and synergy among like minds to create and manage agric-businesses.
  • Acquisition of entrepreneurship skills
  • Improving our food processing skills so as to give out quality finished products.
  • The government also needs to be shown that the future of agriculture lies in the hands of the youth. And this can only be done when we defy all odds, start small and showcase our works to the government.

We thus all agreed that with proper passion, vision, persistence, networking, hard work and making effective use of information and opportunities available we truly can change our future for the better through agriculture.