, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 28 – Africa has been put on the spot over lack of investment in agriculture, especially in the wake of a food crisis owing to prolonged drought in parts of the continent.
Immediate former Vice president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) Dr Akin Adesina said on Thursday that lack of investment in the sector had made Africa become a net importer of food, spending up to $50 billion annually on food imports.
Dr Adesina who is the newly appointed Minister for Agriculture in Nigeria blamed African governments for abandoning agriculture.
“In other words, Africa is spending its hard earned resources buying food and the more expensive the food is, obviously you are fuelling inflation and the reason why this is happening is because agriculture in Africa has been performing very poorly,” he said in an interview with Capital News.
He added that there was need to accelerate uptake of improved varieties of crops that were high yield, rapidly increase the use of fertiliser, set up marketing institutions for farmers, ensure value addition to produce and improve infrastructure.
“Our farmers produce in hope but they sell in tears,” he said in reference to the lack of marketing institutions that would ensure farmers had a market for their produce.
“First and foremost, we should take agriculture seriously and recognise that agriculture is not a development programme, it’s not a Father Christmas sector, it is a business and must be structured as one!” he emphasised.
Dr Adesina however noted that African agriculture was rising and would grow even further if there were policies that comprehensively supported farmers.
“If you look at the Foreign Direct Investment that is coming to Africa today, it’s tremendous. Everybody is coming to get a piece of Africa, if there is no potential in Africa, obviously they wouldn’t do that so that means African agriculture is on the rise,” he explained.
“That is not to suggest that the job is done, it just means we are moving in the right direction, what we now need to do is to accelerate that pace because our population is growing very fast,” the agricultural expert added.
He decried the lack of funding for farmers mainly because banks were unwilling to give loans to them.
“If you look at the United States of America, they only have 200,000 farmers and they are the largest food producer in the world, largest food exporter and the largest giver of food aid in the world. In Kenya for example there are millions of farmers who are queuing for food aid, that’s bad, it’s not acceptable,” he said.
“But I know that Africa will not be a continent where poverty becomes our national endowment, we will not be a museum of poverty,” he said in optimism.