Thursday, July 5, 2007
Agriculture - Africa's Dependence
Agriculture - Africa's Dependence
New Times (Kigali)
2 July 2007
Posted to the web 3 July 2007
By Joseph Mudingu
Africa is rich in both natural and human resources, yet nearly 200 million of its people are malnourished because of inadequate food supplies.
Though dependent on agricultural activities, most Sub Saharan Africans live in dry or sub humid agro-ecological zones, and recent climate change models show that climate change will affect the rainfall patterns in these zones.
The impact is usually felt in the droughts, when perennial grasses are not able to use the sparse rainwater more efficiently but tap the nutrients stored in their roots.
However in the effort to improve on the yields, the farming systems now in use in varying degrees across Africa show the most promise for reducing malnutrition and improving agricultural productivity since they are directed to reduce soil erosion and depletion of soil nutrients.
These conclude the maize-mixed system, which is based primarily on maize, cotton, cattle, goats, poultry, and supplemental non farm work.
Cereal/root crop-mixed system, based on maize, sorghum, millet, cassava, yams,legumes, and cattle.
Irrigated system, based on rice, cotton, vegetables, rain-fed crops, cattle, and poultry; and the tree crop-based system, anchored in cocoa, coffee, oil palm, and rubber, and involves yams, maize, and non farm work as well.
Comprehensive strategies are needed across the continent to harness the power of science and technology in ways that will boost agricultural productivity, profitability, and sustainability.
This will ultimately ensure that all Africans have access to enough safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs
Within each of these systems, policy-makers, scientists, and farmers should explore all Science and technology options, including both conventionally bred and genetically modified plants; chemical and organic fertilizers; irrigation; and strategies that integrate pest, soil, and nutrient management.
In the near future, stakeholders also should take greater advantage of Information and Communication Technology, and encourage local production of agricultural machinery and equipment to reduce Africa's dependence on industrialized countries for such goods.
Farmers must be key players in all of these efforts.
African Centres of Agricultural Research should also be created and excellence to undertake basic research that can lead to the development of new technologies to improve agricultural productivity.
These centres, which would supplement work done by national agriculture agencies, should be owned and governed by Africans to help curtail the flight of the continent's agricultural scientists, who often seek opportunities in other industries or parts of the world.
Farmers should be taught to help identify relevant avenues of research for the centres.
On the whole, African governments should significantly increase investments in agricultural institutions.
Likewise, African governments, with support from donor agencies, should create a range of incentives and opportunities for scientists to stay and work in their countries.
Government leaders also must invest more in science and technology at all levels of education to create environments that can attract more students to these fields.
Vibrant market economies and effective economic policies are essential to helping poor farmers gain financial stability and improving food security, the report adds.
Governments must increase investments in rural infrastructure; such as roads, information and communication technology, and food storage technology. Plus, governments must ensure that appropriate food quality and safety standards and regulations are in place and enforced.
African nations should work together to support such standards, and also to eliminate regional trade barriers, increase research capacity, and expand Africans' opportunities in international markets.
Trade barriers with nations that are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which includes the world's largest economies, should be reduced.
And the members should help developing countries in Africa meet food quality and safety standards and enhance their ability to make sound decisions about agricultural and economic policy - with the goal of strengthening Africa's position in global agriculture markets.
Apart from agriculture, Africa is endowed with abundant and wide range of energy resources.
The region's renewable energy potential includes a wealth of biomass, solar and wind resource.
In addition, the region has over 1.1 million of exploitable hydro capacity; 59 billion barrels of petroleum; 8 billion cubic meters of natural gas reserves and, over 60 billion tons of coal.
So with economic development, more sustainable resource management and reductions of high fertility rates will all contribute to both poverty reduction and to increasing the capacity of Africans to cope with climate change.
Posted by lmurx at 11:56 AM