Africa can feed itself and feed the world

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WANGUI MUCHIRI

Last week hundreds of Africans gathered at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, to take stock of the continent’s progress and challenges in the agriculture sector. The assembly had been brought together under the auspices of the Comprehensive African Agriculture Plan Partners Platform (CAADP-PP).

The general consensus at this meeting, as in many others in the past, was that Africa can feed itself and feed the world.

We all believe that Africa can make extreme poverty history in our lifetime, and smart investment in agriculture is one of the certain ways that can get us there. But to quote the African Union Commissioner on Rural Development and Agriculture, H.E. Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, Africa cannot eat potential. It’s time to move from rhetoric to action.

The proof that we can get there is in a report released by ONE, http://www.one.org/growingopportunity. The report, titled ‘A Growing Opportunity: Measuring Investments in African Agriculture,’ tracks commitments made by 19 African countries and eight donor countries to support growth in agriculture.

Nine out of the 19 African countries assessed are on track to cut poverty by half by 2015. The 9 countries make me proud as an African, and gives me hope that the other 10 can get there. In fact, one of the star performers mentioned in the report, is Ethiopia. If poverty has reduced dramatically in Ethiopia, it can reduce in Nigeria, and Benin, and in the rest of the continent.

Ethiopia has lived to tell the world an extraordinary story. From the 1980s global TV pictures of famine and death, to a thriving Ethiopia today. Ethiopia is a living testimony that investing in agriculture is one of the best ways to reduce poverty. Ethiopia’s success story can be partly attributed to several factors. From 2008 – 2011 almost 20 per cent of government spending was invested in agriculture, consequently agriculture productivity rose each year by almost a quarter. The country also has a clear 10-year plan for agriculture and is on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving extreme poverty by 2015.

Imagine what would happen if the rest of the countries, in Africa, which have not developed agriculture investment plans grab the agriculture opportunity now and fund their part of the $4.4 billion CAADP funding gap mentioned in the report.

On the donor side, the report shows that G8 countries are also falling well short of meeting the $22 billion pledge agreed at the 2009 G8 Summit in L’Aquila to address food security in developing countries. Less than half the money committed has been distributed and donor support for African-led agriculture plans is significantly off track. The credibility of the G8 rests on being accountable for these past pledges and supporting CAADP national programmes in full.
The nine African great success stories in the report should surely encourage donors to move their money from paper to committed African countries and farmers that need the funds most.

At the end of the day, we all know that charity begins at home. 10 years ago, African leaders met in Maputo and made a commitment to set aside 10pc of their national budgets for Agriculture and Rural Development.

African governments on their own can lead the fight against poverty by meeting their Maputo commitments and closing the $4.4 billion CAADP funding gap. Studies show that Africa spends 50 billion US dollars a year to buy food imports. Surely, we can therefore afford to fill the 4.4 billion? C’mon Africa, YES WE CAN!!!

If both our African governments and the International Partners work together, we can win the war against poverty in Africa, once and for all. Future generations are watching and waiting. If we want to leave our children and children’s children, a better Africa than the one we live in today, Investing in Agriculture is the sure way. We are in this together, let’s make it happen.

Wangui Muchiri is ONE Africa’s Communication Senior Manager. ONE is a grassroots advocacy organization fighting extreme poverty particularly in Africa

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