, SIRTE, LIBYA, Jul 2 – President Mwai Kibaki has declared that Africa has the potential to produce enough food to feed her estimated population of over 900 million people and have surplus for export.
He however stressed that the continent must transform its agricultural practices.
President Kibaki pointed out that substantial resources were required to achieve the transformation of the sector in Africa and called for concerted efforts among member countries to raise the resources.
The President who was addressing the 13th Ordinary Session of the African Union Heads of State and Government in Sirte, Libya said that it was unfortunate that majority of the food insecure people in the world, live in Africa and that more than 45 percent of the African people cannot afford two meals a day.
He said that in order to eradicate poverty and food insecurity the continent must transform the current subsistence method of farming to commercial farming where farmers undertake agriculture as business that earns them enough income to prosper.
"Apart from its economic importance, agriculture is the source of food. A large proportion of our people is poor and does not have adequate purchasing power. Furthermore most of our people believe that they have to produce what they consume."
President Kibaki observed that it was hard to achieve high economic growth rates for African countries while a majority of their citizens were food insecure and lived in abject poverty.
The President said: "I am convinced that for our economies to grow fast enough to get our people out of poverty and food insecurity, we must invest more in agriculture."
The Head of State challenged African governments to move a step further apart from upholding the Maputo declaration of allocating 10 percent of their annual national budget to agriculture, but also to increase the budget to not less than 13 percent by 2012.
He asserted, "I have arrived at the figure of 13 percent from current examples and, because this is what we were spending in 1960s and 1970s when our economies were growing by over 10 percent and we were almost food secure."
Noting that the timing of the Summit was godsend considering the eminence of economic development and food insecurity on the continent, the President said that it was unfortunate that despite Africa’s inadequate foreign exchange the continent is still a net food importer.
President Kibaki said that the role of agriculture in most African countries apart from those with ample mineral resources cannot be overemphasized adding that when agriculture grows faster economies grow even faster and when agriculture declines economies equally decline.
"The sector contributes over 25 percent of the GDP; it is the main source of employment especially for the rural population; and it is also the main source of foreign exchange. It is for this reason that economic growth of our countries has very close relationship with agricultural growth."
During the forum, President Kibaki highlighted five key areas that African countries need to focus on in order to achieve agricultural transformation.
He urged the continental governments to ensure that all agricultural inputs are available and affordable to farmers including some level of subsidy.
The President said: "In Kenya, during the last financial year, we spent over US dollars 120 million to procure in bulk about 240,000 metric tons of assorted fertilizer to make them affordable to farmers. We have also maintained the prices of seeds to levels that are affordable to most of our farmers."
He also urged African governments to ensure that farmers access affordable credit and called for the change of credit laws in favour of farming enterprises.
"In Kenya we are reviving our agricultural credit institutions and starting commodity based funds."
The President called for mechanisms for farmers to have good access to markets for their produce including instituting Guaranteed Minimum Returns and/or farm insurance schemes.
He said that Kenya had started a programme to build modern fresh produce markets in all constituencies and had initiated reforms to the cooperative movement for easy marketing.
Another principle that President advocated for was investment in irrigated agriculture to reduce overreliance on rains and also mitigate the vagaries of weather.
He urged each country to commit to achieving more than 50 percent of its irrigation potential by 2020 citing the Kenyan example where the country has set a target of expanding irrigated land from the current 150,000 hectares to at least 1 million hectares by 2020.
President Kibaki further called on all nations to strengthen and maintain their agricultural institutions for quality extension services, research and innovations.
"In doing so we should move our farming enterprises from producers of primary raw material to producers of value added products ready for consumption," the President said,.
President Kibaki thanked the government of the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya for facilitating the deliberations and enabling the Assembly to share the rich experiences from individual member states so as to collectively make important decisions affecting Africa’s agriculture and the wellbeing of the entire continent.