There is no doubt about it, when it comes to rice, imports can be devastating to local production.
Both the AU and Nepad are not blind to this controversy and in a recent report, they clearly state that: “The issue of investments has attracted attention since the African parties and donors agree on it, but economic policy reforms may seem like a minefield. In practice, however, speaking only of investment runs the risk of creating dependence with regard to funding strategies by donors.
“Economic regulation will need to be at the core of CAADP, and this concern has been present from the beginning. Since Africa has asserted its leadership of CAADP, these controversial issues are going to be easier to approach in an independent manner.”
The man driving CAADP, Dr Ibrahim Mayaki the CEO of Nepad tells New African: “Food security means that all people at all times have physical and economic access to adequate amounts of nutritious, safe and culturally appropriate foods, for an active and healthy life. Agriculture needs to work closely with other sectors to make this a reality.”
“There are also strategic position papers that the Nepad Agency is developing – in consultation with the AU Commission and Regional Economic Communities (RECs) – essentially presenting Africa’s position on salient issues such as GMOs.
“This also calls for the development of infrastructure, to build the roads to transport produce, boost electricity supply to power agro-processing plants, enhance health systems to promote healthy eating habits and lifestyles, and the involvement of the private sector to create the processing and packaging plants and hence create jobs. All stakeholders within all these sectors have a role to play in ensuring that all the people have access to food.”
This view is supported by Makthar Diop, the World Bank’s vice president for Africa. “Africa does have the means and opportunities to deal with and deliver improved food security for its citizens,” he says. “If African farmers were to achieve the yields that farmers are attaining in other developing countries then output of staples would easily double or even triple.
“On top of this, barely a fraction of fertile agricultural land is being cultivated – just 10% of the 400 million hectares of agricultural land in the Guinea savannah zone that covers a large part of Africa. Cultivating this land, while ensuring that existing user rights and the environment are protected, can play a key role in satisfying the rising demand for food in Africa and ultimately elsewhere in the world.
But for this to happen, current food trade policies need to change and farmers need to be better linked to both inputs and to consumers.”
Buoyed by such optimism, the AU and Nepad believe that the “tools of action” outlined in its new framework released in January 2014, which will be followed up at the next AU Summit in July this year, mean that feeding 1.5 billion Africans by 2030 and 2 billion in 2050 is a challenge that Africa is capable of meeting. However they admit that more needs to be done.
“It is not simply a matter of how much food is needed and the amount of agricultural growth required,” the AU framework argues. “Indeed, Africa will be unable to achieve food security unless it succeeds in drastically reducing the poverty level, undermining its production capacity and its food and nutritional security.
“Africa must, therefore, invent an agricultural growth model that simultaneously responds – or helps to respond – to its different challenges, relating to agriculture, demography, society (poverty, employment, reduction of inequalities, gender), environment (protection of natural resources and biodiversity), land (development, settlement regulation) and food.”
According to the AU, the regional integration process in which the RECs and the AU are currently engaged is one of the main assets that the region’s countries and stakeholders possess:
“Promoting agriculture and agricultural trade is one of the tools for building and deepening the regional integration process by, and for, Africans and by and for regional products,” says the AU framework report.
“Regional cooperation and integration are tools for boosting agricultural performance, contributing to efficient, shared natural resource management, and improving the region’s capacity for ensuring its food security and sovereignty.”
The report concludes: “After 10 years of existence, CAADP can assess progress made on the occasion of the African Union’s Year for Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition. This will be an important time to regroup, to confirm commitments made in Maputo and to move on to the next stage.”
However, it is probably the final summing up of the AU/CAADP report on agriculture that puts paid to the debate on food security or the lack of it, and Africa’s way forward to a much-needed agricultural revolution.
The report revisits the results of a survey CAADP conducted among various social stakeholders who concluded that:
“Africans must stop begging and importing food: arable land must not be sold for oil at the expense of agriculture; Africa must stop paying lip service to agricultural investment; the public sector must stop marginalising other stakeholders; policies that benefit urban consumers at the expense of rural agricultural producers must be stopped; producers, pastoralists and agrifood businesses must be included in discussions affecting the agricultural sector; the unsustainable use of land and the sale of land must be stopped; CAADP must be appropriated by all sectors; and Africans should stop depending exclusively on donors to invest in agriculture.”
In that, perhaps lie the solutions to finding the winning formula for the African “hunger games”.