AU decision to fund agriculture laudable

 

The African society generally despises a man who lives in a home without food while spending the last dollar he has to impress his friends and colleagues at a watering hole.

In fact, the man who does not care for his family’s food security is easily equated to a fool. This is the notion that African societies carry. Hence, even the leaders put emphasis on the importance of agriculture to ensure food security on the continent.

The African Union summit that was held in Ethiopia a few weeks ago showed the importance African leaders attach to the happiness of a well-fed family.

According to the resolutions reached at the highest level of discussion by the continent’s leaders, there is need to improve funding in the agriculture sector in future.

The leaders chose to focus on the theme, “Transforming Africa’s Agriculture for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods, Through Harnessing Opportunities for Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development”.

Improved funding in the production of staple foods such as maize, sorghum, millet, cassava and sometimes potatoes is seen as a cornerstone in guaranteeing food security on the continent.

The leaders urged their governments to channel enough resources to the improvement of agriculture. This is a clear indication of the seriousness that African leaders have shown in saving themselves from being equated to that man who enjoys his little resources in massaging other men’s egos at a watering hole while his family languishes in poverty.

One would argue though that why does a continent blessed with vast tracts of rich land experience such levels of malnutrition. Others would want to question why such bold steps are being taken now. These questions are easily answered by African adages saying, half a loaf is better than nothing and its better late than never.

Going forward, the African leaders should now consolidate their resolution. I Initiatives like the green scheme in Namibia and the land reform programmes in Zimbabwe need to be funded with the available resources if they are to provide for those countries.

Taking the initiative

 

While the continent has in the past relied on subsidies provided by the Bretton Woods institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to finance their agriculture production, the Ethiopian meeting should be applauded because it marks the beginning of an era where leaders take responsibility for their country’s food security.

Although agriculture is a vital component of economic growth and food security on the continent, it has not been receiving the attention it needs in the past. In fact, the better part of the continent has been turned into a perennial consumer of genetically modified goods from Europe and North America.

The zeal to exploit land to the maximum use for the betterment of the continent’s resources was fast becoming a myth. One wonders why. It is actually inexplicable that a continent with countries like Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, Nigeria and the South Africa with some of the richest farming lands in the world imports food.

A good example of how investment in agriculture can curb malnutrition and ensure self-sufficiency is Malawi under the reign of the late Bingu wa Mutharika. At one point that country produced 1.5 million tonnes of maize and could afford to export to Zimbabwe and South Africa.

In the early 1990s, Zimbabwe was producing enough maize to feed the whole of the Southern African Development Community. Such were the times when agriculture was the cornerstone of African development. In any case, it is important to see leaders looking at reality and finding solutions.  This shows that the continent’s leadership is no longer interested in celebrating nostalgic memories of a past era. They also do not want to be the men who pamper others’ egos while their families bite the dust at home.

African solutions for African problems

The African society is also a good setup where problems at home are solved within that home. However, this notion was somewhat being neglected when some of the continent’s leaders were developing a habit of carrying begging bowls to the European Union and the affluent nations. In fact, it was getting out of hand that even countries like Malawi that have the capacity to feed the region were also neglecting agriculture to rely on food aid.

The African Union summit of the past two weeks seems to have reminded the continent’s leaders that in as much as hunger, malnutrition and starvation are African problems, the resultant solutions are also in Africa. There is no better way of kicking hunger out of Africa than by investing in agriculture. Besides are we not the same Africans who preach a lot about never giving someone fish but teaching them how to fish?

One hopes that the resolution of improving agriculture funding is one that will be implemented and a good 10 years from now hunger and starvation will no longer be issues that haunt our continent. It is also encouraging that the leaders will pursue the issue on agriculture further at the next African Union summit in June, according to AU Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

February 2014
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