ONE and New African Agriculture Challenge: Is 2014 going to be a new era for Africa’s rural farmers? It has been 10 years since the Maputo Declaration, whereby governments committed to allocating 10% of budgets towards agriculture. Only a handful have actually kept that pledge. Nonetheless, there have been some positive stories across the continent.
Over the coming months, New African will be bringing the benefits of agriculture into the spotlight. The Year of Agriculture will be announced at the AU Summit in January. In July, many African Heads of State will meet again to develop concrete steps to promote agriculture. In our January 2015 issue we will see what progress has been made in The Year of Agriculture.
We have partnered up with the advocacy group ONE to launch the Enhanced Maputo Framework Challenge. This Farmer’s Deal will provide public investments and policy reforms that will improve the agriculture system, providing crucial missing services for smallholder farmers and budding agribusiness firms. The objective is to give agriculture the place it deserves, to ensure that our leaders listen to the voices of smallholder farmers, and that they walk the talk.
Ghanaian Adam Yakubu is happy being a farmer. You can tell the minute you come into contact with this dark-skinned, thin-framed young man. He commands the kind of peaceful and blissful expression that says ‘there is everything right about being a farmer’. Yakubu’s vast cocoa farm is nestled in the Asempanaye community of the Asikuma Odoben Brakwa District in the Central Region of Ghana. The local townfolk celebrate him as a shining example of the modern day farmer. He’s been at it for the past eight years – starting off at age 25. Like most local people, when he started, farming was nothing more than a pastime. Eight years later, his farm has grown into a profitable plantation.
The majority of young people would prefer to move to the city in search of white-collar jobs, but Yakubu, who provides for his two daughters and wife with revenue from the farm, is adamant that farming is the way to go. “It is unfortunate farming in this country has that negative tag,” he says. “When you talk about farming, most people here think it is a job for unintelligent people. It is not correct. I am fairly educated. So there should be greater respect for what we do as farmers.” Indeed, he says that the impact of farming on his immediate community, the country and the world over, is “far reaching”.
80% of Ghana’s population consists of farmers, official figures suggest. Just like in most Sub-Saharan countries, agriculture is the backbone of the West African country’s economy, catering to both local and export needs.
“Every individual wakes up and thinks of breakfast, lunch and supper. So this brings the role of the farmer into the economy of the country. Every economy also thinks of creating a market for the produce it generates from farming. It all comes down to us. These foodstuffs have to come from the farmer and that is why we are as important as the guy sitting in an air-conditioned office in Accra.”
However, in spite of the crucial role of rural farmers such as Adam, they do not get nearly the same level of support and recognition as urban workers in Africa. The statistics are quite astonishing: some 379m Africans depend on agriculture as a source of income. On average, agriculture constitutes 45% of the GDP in African economies. Agriculture also employs an estimated 69% of Africa’s labour force. Smallholder farmers, such as Adam, account for 80% of the continent’s food produce. In spite of these compelling statistics, smallholder farmers struggle to make a living. In 2011, there were some 413.8m people living in poverty in Africa, many of these farmers.
239m Africans today are said to be malnourished. This picture presents a poignant contradiction. And although Adam is one of the fortunate ones, he acknowledges the daunting challenges that farmers face.
“Most farmers in Ghana lack the basic know-how and dynamics of the industry. For instance, how to even access funds for projects is a bother. Because of this, productivity is sometimes low.”
For most of Sub-Saharan Africa’s struggling smallholder farmers, the challenges abound. Only 4% of sub-Saharan Africa’s crop land is under irrigation, compared to 33% in North Africa. This means that when the weather is bad, harvest is low. $4bn worth of cereal, mostly grown by smallholder farmers, is wasted each year because of poor markets and storage. Only 24% of farmers have access to improved seed, compared to 48% in North Africa. Women, who do the bulk of the work, only have access to 2% of the land and 5% of extension services.
Although Africa and its smallholder farmers have the potential to feed the world, such challenges keep most farmers at sustenance levels of production and trapped in extreme poverty. At the same time, Africa’s agricultural potential is staggering. While growth in agriculture is usually five times more effective in reducing poverty than in other sectors, for Sub-Saharan Africa, the impact of agricultural growth on poverty reduction is 11 times greater. And, given that 70% of the poorest Africans reside in rural areas, opportunities abound for agriculture-led economic growth through targeted and strategic policy action.
In July 2003 in Maputo, African Heads of State and Government endorsed the Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security in Africa, which included a commitment to the allocation of at least 10% of national budgetary resources to agriculture and rural development, as well as the achievement of 6% annual growth within five years. Only 10 of the 54 AU member states (less than 20%) have achieved the Maputo 10% budget target. Among them are Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Malawi, Mali, Niger and Senegal. Similarly, only 10 countries have exceeded the 6% agriculture growth target. These include Angola, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, The Republic of the Congo, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Nigeria, Senegal, and Tanzania.
However, according to ONE’s Africa Director, Dr. Sipho S. Moyo, African states have generally shown the will to improve agriculture. “More than 36 countries have signed the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) compact, pledging to develop national agriculture through defined country investment plans. 28 countries have launched technically reviewed and costed country investment plans,” she says.
“Countries such as Ghana and Burkina Faso have already demonstrated how agricultural reform can effectively diminish hunger and poverty. With 10% budgetary allocation to agriculture and over 6% agriculture growth per year, Burkina Faso is on track to halve poverty and hunger by 2015. Ghana’s aggressive reform in the cocoa sector is a major driver of poverty reduction,” Dr. Moyo adds.
Ghana’s ability to process cocoa in-country by setting up advanced processing plants is an example of the kind of agricultural reform that is needed across the board in Africa. For farmers like Adam this means quicker access to bigger local markets for their produce, and for consumers in general it means lower chocolate prices. Above all, it cuts the expense of importing processed food, and creates many more jobs along the value chain for young Ghanaians. Overall, it means improved sales for farmers, and yet lower food prices. A win-win situation.
“Huge opportunities are arising that Africa must seize. The world’s population is estimated to be 9.1bn by 2050. African markets for staples are set to increase to $1 trillion in 2030. The middle class will create a market of $400bn by 2039. Developing agricultural production in Africa is key to seizing these market opportunities to drive economic growth”, explains Dr. Moyo.
“Across Africa, the private sector opportunities in the agriculture sector are unlimited. They have opportunities to engage in agro-production, agro-retail, agro-processing and agro-exports, regionally and internationally. The private sector also has opportunities to compliment government in the provision of agro-support services such as finance, training and equipment, at a profit.”