Crop insurance, via mobile phone technology, for farmers in Kenya help minimize losses
Crop insurance, via mobile phone technology, for farmers in Kenya help minimize losses

A British report says Europe needs to do more to invest in African agriculture.  It says a gap exists between bold rhetoric that pledges billions to aid African agriculture and a reality in which money has not materialized. 

The panel of experts from Africa and Europe said European donors need to pay more attention to immediate threats of food insecurity in Africa and also to support African-led initiatives to improve agricultural productivity on the continent.

Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa President Namanga Ngongi was on the panel of experts and says agriculture in Africa is improving. "I have seen for myself. You go into the field seeing farms where people were producing one ton per hectare before, they are now producing three, four, five tons per hectare - in some cases 6-metric tons per hectare.  So now they have these possible surpluses that need to be market," Ngongi said.

He says regional bodies in Africa are increasingly making agriculture a major focus, introducing new crop breeding programs and providing start up capital for new enterprises.

And he says governments are spending more of their national budget on agricultural development.

Those efforts, he says, are paying off.  For example, Nigeria has surpassed Brazil as the world's largest producer of cassava, which is a major source of calories in Africa.

Panel chairman Gordon Conway says the improvements within the agricultural sector in Africa are making it a better environment for European investment. "There is a great opportunity for the private sector to work in Africa to help increase production, both of staple crops and of crops for export. So I think it is looking optimistic," he said.

In 2009 wealthy governments in Europe and the United States pledged $22.5 billion to improve food security worldwide.  Agricultural development in Africa was set to be a focus.  But the panel says it is important that cash is channeled in the right way.  

Child malnutrition, it says, has to be a major focus.  It also says global and national food reserves need to be created to counter major volatility in global markets for staple crops.

Conway says food security in Africa is crucial for global security. "Global security is important for all of us," he says, "Every single family in Europe depends on global security.  And that global security consists of a number of components, one of which is food security, another one is protection from climate change.  If you do not have those two you will get political, economic instability and unrest and that is a real threat to Europe."

The report was produced by the Montpellier Panel, which was made up of 10 experts from across the agriculture, development, trade, and policy sectors.