News / Africa

    Expert: Africa's Farmers Must Demand More from Governments

    Africa's farmers need to demand more from their governments in order to meet the continent's -- and the world's -- growing demands for food, says Akin Adesina, vice president for policy and parterships at the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.

    Hunger rates in sub-Saharan Africa are the highest in the world, and research shows agricultural productivity in Africa is not keeping pace with population growth. Adesina says governments have let agriculture decline because they could.

    "My own belief is that the political cost of inaction, of not taking action in agriculture in Africa, is way too low," he says, "And that's why politicians always ignore it."

    But he says rising food prices and the instability that comes with them are changing the equation for African leaders. In Uganda, high food prices have helped to trigger protests against the government. The turmoil follows unrest in the Middle East in which soaring food prices were also a factor.

    "I think the days are over when agriculture is treated with lip service," he says. "If a politician wants to survive in Africa today, and they're smart, they'll focus on agriculture and create jobs for the youth."

    Adesina has spent the last two decades working to improve the productivity of Africa's farmers and has won several awards for his work improving access to fertilizers and better seed. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed him to a panel of advocates for the Millennium Development Goals.

    "Wasting money" on food imports

    The U.N. food agency lists 70 low-income countries that are heavily dependent on food imports; 39 of them are in Africa. Adesina says Africa is wasting its money importing food because the potential is there not only to feed itself, but to help feed the world -- if governments are willing to support agriculture.

    He says Malawi provides a good example. After requiring food aid during a major drought in the early 2000s, the government began providing subsidies for fertilizer and seed.

    "Within one year -- one year -- it fed itself. It became a major exporter of maize," he says. "For the last five years, Malawi is a net food exporter. So, what that tells me is that the African farmer is no different from a farmer in any part of the world. They're just not supported right."

    But Adesina adds that supporting farmers' productivity is only the beginning.

    "There's no point if a farmer is producing and they can't get a road -- a basic road -- to connect them to markets," he says. Governments should be investing in this kind of infrastructure -- roads, electric power, irrigation, and so on, he says.

    He notes that many African nations are taking steps in the right direction. Twenty-five have signed a compact to commit 10 percent of their budgets to agriculture. But far fewer have met the target so far.

    Outside interest

    Adesina says that as food prices rise worldwide, other countries are buying up large tracts of land in Africa to produce food for themselves.

    "If others are coming to Africa who want to try to produce food in Africa, that tells me that we have a potential that we have never unlocked that others are seeing," he says.

    But he does not think it should be other countries that unlock that potential.

    "If they did that, they will get all the benefits of reduced food prices, they will create more jobs in their own countries, and obviously they don't have to pay a lot of money to import food. Those are benefits that Africa should keep for itself."

    He says African governments can keep those benefits by investing in the basic infrastructure to turn fertile areas into breadbaskets. Then those regions can trade with others looking to meet their growing needs for food, feed, fuel and fiber, creating a win-win situation.


    Steve Baragona

    Steve Baragona is an award-winning multimedia journalist covering science, environment and health.

    He spent eight years in molecular biology and infectious disease research before deciding that writing about science was more fun than doing it. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a master’s degree in journalism in 2002.

    You May Like

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora