Food security: Can Africa learn from Brazil?

Gaborone – Famine in the Horn of Africa has brought food security back to the limelight, with analysts pointing out that the continent should learn from South America, particularly Brazil. Brazil has over the decades emerged as a good example of “how to do it” when it comes to just about all sectors of agriculture, getting the best out of a few plantations and numerous small-scale producers to make the sector stable and guarantee food security. The South American giant now stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the “big five” food exporters: the USA, Canada, Australia, Argentina and the European Union. And Brazil is willing to assist Africa achieve food self-sufficiency. “Brazil is dedicated to ensuring the eradication of poverty in Botswana and Africa by sharing its good practices, concerns, researches and development programmes in the agricultural sector,” said Inacio Padilha, Brazil’s Ambassador to Botswana, in an interview this week. Brazil’s progress has been underpinned by the state agricultural-research company and pushed forward by genetically modified crops. However, many African countries are reluctant to take on GM foods, insisting that more research needs to be conducted on environmental and human health impact in the short to long-term. Brazil’s model is based on the growing belief that in farming “small and organic are beautiful”. Analysts say the Brazilian way of farming is more likely to do good in poor African and Asian countries. Brazil’s climate is tropical, like in Africa and Asia. Its success was built partly on improving grasses from Africa and cattle from India. Ambassador Padilha agrees. “This is why we are convinced that the experiences we have gathered as a tropical agricultural country can be easily adapted to the natural conditions that are present in this part of the world,” he said. The diplomat said Brazil had already shown its commitment to eradicating poverty in Africa by organizing a meeting that attracted over 30 African agriculture ministers to discuss viable ways forward for the continent. “Issues that were discussed include food security, combating hunger and rural development. The meeting led to the launch of the programme for African experts and policy-makers on agriculture. “It attracted 300 African representatives and offered courses at numerous agriculture-related institutions in Brazil,” he said. In December 2009, a Brazilian delegation visited Botswana to assess its needs and develop a proposal for co-operation based on specific requests. “This is in line with Brazils ‘Zero-Hunger Programme’ launched by former cabinet minister Jose Graziano, which entails that Africa must continue to be given the highest priority by the Food and Agricultural Organization,” said Ambassador Padilha. Botswana’s Agriculture Minister Christian De Graaff said unstable climatic conditions in Africa required farmers to change strategies to achieve sustainable food production. De Graaff said the only way Africa could become food self-sufficient was through improving its farming practices. “Equally a successful agricultural sector leads to economic development,” he said.

August 2011
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