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Diversifying agriculture to meet the changing times

24.04.2019
Article from AFRIC editorial
African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina quoted: "What Africa does with agriculture will determine the future of food in the world … Who drinks oil, who smokes gas? But you all had breakfast this morning...The food business is a big business but we have to make it a cool business for youth. Young people have to get into agriculture and treat it as a professional career, not as a way of life, and not as a developmental activity”. This statement is an eye opener to Africans, especially the younger generation.

The African continent is not only endowed in mineral resources, but its soils are also very fertile for agriculture. The irony is that the agricultural sector has been largely neglected by African governments. Notwithstanding, the fall in oil prices at a global level has pushed many countries that rely solely on oil as the main economic activity to embark on revamping or uplifting the agricultural sector.

Understanding the Concept of Agriculture

It has been observed that many people on the continent often see agriculture as an activity meant for the poor or low-income earners. This is very common among youths in Africa whose dreams are only to work in industrious companies. But it is imperative to bring a clearer definition of agriculture and what it entails.  As coined by Wikipedia, agriculture constitute the act or science of cultivating plants and livestock. It further states that ‘’Agriculture was the key development in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that enabled people to live in cities’’. Even though agriculture is still perceived by others as an activity designed for the local population who dwell in rural areas, the reality is that it sustains about 60 per cent of Africa’s energetic labour force, provides 17 per cent of the total gross domestic product (GDP). In terms of foreign currency earning, it constitutes about 40 per cent. With this reality on the ground, the sector has recorded real stagnation over the years. Aspects like globalization and urbanization, reviving agriculture on the continent still remain a big challenge as the youth mindset about agriculture needs to be corrected. It should be noted that agriculture constitutes a significant percentage in the diversification of African economies. But commercializing the activity would be a major boost to countries that rely solely on its soils for development. Even Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote has embraced agriculture. He has invested a sum of $4.6bn in Nigerian agriculture. ‘’Africa’s next billionaires will be farmers’’- says AfDB President Adesina.Notwithstanding, African leaders have taken the challenge to diversify farming as they seek to push economic transformation.

According to Rwandan president Paul Kagame, it has to deal with the mindset. In 2018 during the African Green Revolution Forum, Kagame challenged African youths to redefine their mindsets on agriculture and embrace the sector. “We require a rapid shift in the mindset of our young people towards agriculture as a career choice. With the knowledge and technology available, there has never been a better time for young Africans to get involved in agriculture and agribusiness, and create wealth and well-being, for society as a whole,” Kagame noted. In the same light, agriculture summits are being organized across the continent to brainstorm on how the agriculture sector can be harnessed to better suit the changing times. Moving from conservative or primitive farming to mechanized farming will spur development. Such summits include the African Green Revolution Forum, Safagri, SA Agri summit 2019, among others.

Africa’s Premier Agriculture Salon 2019

President Idriss Deby Itno of the Republic of Chad in March 2019 hosted the first Africa agricultural fair in the city of Ndjamena. The fair that ran from March 12 to 15 was aimed at enhancing national and regional policies to change agricultural value chains in West, Central and North Africa, to address economic, climate and security challenges.  The fair was organized in partnership with the Permanent Inter-State Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel, with its French acronym as CILSS. The summit gave agriculture stakeholders the opportunity to exchange their knowhow.

In the same light, South Africa is expected to play host to South Africa Agriculture summit, which is billed for October 2019.  The aim of the forum is to support ‘’agricultural development, productivity, profitability and sustainability in South Africa’’, and to push youths into taking up a career in the agricultural sector that is building agricultural entrepreneurs.

 

Still, in efforts to address agriculture-related issues, Ghana will be hosting the 2019 edition of the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) from September 3 to 6. It will hold under the theme: “Grow Digital: Leveraging Digital Transformation to Drive Sustainable Food Systems in Africa.” This is coming at a time, the government of Ghana through its Food and Agriculture Minister, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto has announced to invest a sum of $500m to refurbish Ghana’s farm mechanization centers. President Nana Akuffo Addo noted: “Agriculture is not and cannot be a single-crop industry. Farming is a business and it is a profession that must be promoted and studied like all other professions. Africa is en route to transforming agriculture. The continent needs to eliminate famine and starvation which are still prevalent in contemporary Africa and very difficult to comprehend. Many remain in dire need of food. As advocated by the Food and Agriculture Organization FAO, Africa must harness its agriculture sector to meet with the changing times as conservative methods of farming are dying out.

Article from AFRIC editorial

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