Substantial investment in African farming has generated the most successful development effort in African history, suggests a new report by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
The 2016 African Agriculture Status Report looks into successful countries which have managed to put in a decade of intense focus on farmers and food production.
Where there is the right mix of interventions, considerable economic opportunities are delivered and fundamental development milestones, like improving nutrition, are addressed
“The last ten years have made a strong case for agriculture as the surest path to producing sustainable economic growth which is felt in all sectors of society, and particularly among poor Africans. The track record is far from perfect. Many governments face significant budget constraints and far too many farming families continue to lack basic inputs, like improved seeds or fertilizers. But the evidence is clear. When we invest in our farmers and in the all the things they need to succeed, good things happen across the economy,” said AGRA President Agnes Kalibata.
The report states that the agricultural transformation process in a country is generally associated with the following seven trends. This includes farmers moving out from farming to look into better economic opportunities, farms becoming more specialized in what they produce and the emergence of medium and large scale farms. It further points out that many of these transformation processes have accelerated since 2005 in countries such as Ghana, Kenya, Zambia, Ethiopia and Rwanda.
The transformation in agriculture had its biggest impact in countries that followed up on the African Union’s Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Program or CAADP, which was created in 2003. The program, among other things, called on African governments to allocate 10 percent of the national budget to agriculture and to aim for six percent annual growth in the sector.
The report notes that, even if some most countries have not met the 10 percent target, early adopters of the CAADP goals have seen productivity on existing farmlands rise by 5.9 to 6.7 percent per year and this boost in turn helped spur a 4.3 percent average annual increase in overall GDP. On the other hand, countries that had not adopt the CAADP saw farm productivity rise by less than 3 percent and GDP rise by only 2.2 percent.
“It’s clear that with agriculture now back at the top of Africa’s development agenda, the foundations have been laid for a renaissance in African agriculture that could quickly deliver benefits to the broader economy,” said David Ameyaw, one of the report’s lead authors who is head of Monitoring and Evaluation for AGRA. He further pointed out that there is evidence many farmers are “gaining more options in the seeds they plant, in the fertilizers they use, and in the markets available to purchase their produce.”
Although the continent has been seeing positive transformation in the agricultural sector, Africa still remains the world’s most food insecure continent with relatively low levels of agricultural productivity, low rural incomes, high rates of malnutrition and a worsening of food trade balance, the report states.
Experts say that agricultural development is very uneven across the continent. Where there is the right mix of interventions, considerable economic opportunities are delivered and fundamental development milestones, like improving nutrition, are addressed. But where it is neglected, agriculture continues to be a barrier to generating more sustainable and equitable economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa.