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New Effort to Revive African Small-Scale Farming and Markets

A new initiative has been launched to revive small-scale farming and agricultural markets in Africa. The announcement comes from AGRA, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.

Dr. Akin Adesina is the group’s vice-president for policy and partnership. From Nairobi, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about why it’s important to boost the small-scale agricultural sector.

“Agriculture is the basic source of employment for probably 75 percent of Africa’s population. And so clearly that is the major sector that Africa has. If one is therefore going to have economic growth, it’s absolutely critical to increase or improve the productivity of agriculture and also the profitability of agriculture. Most of the farmers that you have in Africa today have very low yields of their crops. They’re not able to produce enough to feed themselves (much less have enough to sell). So we think it’s absolutely critical to improve the productivity of African farming and in particular to help them to get at least surpluses and be able to sell it at good prices to ad income, send their kids to school, building houses, putting clothing on their bodies and have a better life,” he says.

AGRA says this will be done by “building nation-wide networks of agro-dealers who will open and operate thousands of farm supply stores in remote rural areas.”

“Basically, if you take a look at Africa today, most farmers travel very, very long distances to find agriculture farm inputs. In a place like Malawi, farmers may travel as much as 100 kilometers, just looking for a small pack of seed and a small pack of fertilizer. So, they’re spending most of their time looking for farm inputs. And yet, the companies, the seed companies and fertilizer companies, in most cases don’t set up their own distribution shops in these rural areas. But what is very strange, actually a big paradox, is that everywhere you go in Africa, you will find soda. You will have Pepsi Cola, Fanta, you name it. And so we believe that if it is easier for farmers to find Fanta and Pepsi Cola and Coca Cola, why can’t they find seed and fertilizer,” he says.

So, AGRA is teaching the owners of these rural shops about seeds and fertilizers, etc. The shop owners will then sell these items to local farmers, who live only a short distance away. And the seeds and fertilizer will be sold in small bags that farmers can afford, not the very large, expensive bags normally sold.