Africa has come a long way since independence 50 years ago but is not fully free, and cannot be fully free until there is an end the chronic hunger that afflicts 220 million daily. They must grow the food to free them from hunger and do away with unsustainable food aid and imports. So they need a policy revolution.
Peasants, who grow most of Africa’s food face challenges, now compounded by climate change — in the floods and the droughts that have put 20 million people at risk of famine in eastern Africa.
Africans cannot wait for solutions from the outside. Now is the time for Africa to have home-grown policies. Change must come from the halls of parliament from Lilongwe, Nairobi, Addis Ababa, Maputo and Dakar, all the way down to the small farms on the lush hills of Rhumpi to the sweltering lands of the Sahel.
Political leaders come from rural areas, including ministers and heads of State, yet the misery of the African farmer continues. It is time for leaders to show the way and they have begun. They have committed to achieving six per cent annual agricultural growth and to allocating 10 per cent of national budgets to agriculture. International partners are increasing their support for such efforts.
No nation can develop unless it takes full control of the policy space and maps its own development. To spark this effort, the Alliance for a Green Revolution (Agra) launched this week a major training policy.
They must train a new generation of policy analysts for Africa and must strengthen the capacity of parliaments to engage on evidence-based policy dialogues,and we must train farmers and implement concrete policies that will revitalise African agriculture.
It’s time to replace the “Washington Consensus” with a new “African Consensus” that puts the interest of African farmers and economies first.
For too long, Africa’s lack of internal capacity has kept it reliant on policy analysis generated outside the continent, and often imposed as conditions for aid. Well-intentioned outside advice often fails to respond to the realities of African farmers
Technology alone won’t bring about food self-sufficiency. A bumper crop is a good thing, but if there is no road to bring it to the market or the market is glutted and prices crash, then it will rot in the fields. Farmers need extension systems, cash and tools to mitigate the effects of climate change. Women need land and property rights.
Farmers cannot pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Many don’t have boots to start with. Africa desperately needs to replace policies of abandonment of farmers with those of support.The goal is not to produce papers that collect dust. Farmers don’t eat policy papers. They need policies that change their lives and enable them to turn Africa into a breadbasket for the world.; Dr Adesina
Bill Gates spoke yesterday as follows on his Foundation’s efforts. I have selected a piece
Productivity or sustainability – they say you have to choose.
It’s a false choice, and it’s dangerous for the field. It blocks important advances. It breeds hostility among people who need to work together. And it makes it hard to launch a comprehensive program to help poor farmers.
The fact is, we need both productivity and sustainability – and there is no reason we can’t have both.
Many environmental voices have rightly highlighted the excesses of the original Green Revolution. They warn against the dangers of too much irrigation or fertilizer. They caution against a consolidation of farms that could crowd out small-holder farmers.
These are important points, and they underscore a crucial fact: the next Green Revolution has to be greener than the first. It must be guided by small-holder farmers, adapted to local circumstances, and sustainable for the economy and the environment.
Let me repeat that. The next Green Revolution must be guided by small-holder farmers, adapted to local circumstances, and sustainable for the economy and the environment.
The last thing anyone should do is create short-term gains for poor farmers that have long-term costs for their children.
That’s why our foundation works closely with local farmers’ groups. And that’s why we are one of the largest funders of sustainable approaches such as no-till farming, rainwater harvesting, drip irrigation, and biological nitrogen fixation.
The environment also benefits from higher productivity. When productivity is too low, people start farming on grazing land, cutting down forests, using any new acreage they can to grow food. When productivity is high, people can farm on less land.
Some voices are instantly hostile to any emphasis on productivity. They act as if there is no emergency – even though in the poorest, hungriest places on earth, population is growing faster than productivity, and the climate is changing.Declining yields, at a time of rising population, in a region with millions of poor people, means starvation.
So what is the way forward for farming and feeding an ever increasing world population. It’s complex and needs serious consideration. On the one side you have the big multi national concerns promoting monoculture, hybrid seeds and even terminator seeds, combined with noxious pesticides and artificial fertilizer and on the extreme other side you have the super organic and as with everything the solution is somewhere in between, BUT there are some facts to be considered
How many times have we heard that large farms are more productive than small farms, and that we need to consolidate land holdings to take advantage of that greater productivity and efficiency? The actual data shows the opposite,small farms produce far more per acre or hectare than large farms.
One reason for the low levels of production on large farms is that they tend to be monocultures. The highest yield of a single crop is often obtained by planting it alone on a field. But while that may produce a lot of one crop, it generates nothing else of use to the farmer. In fact, the bare ground between crop rows invites weed infestation.
Large farmers tend to plant monocultures because they are the simplest to manage with heavy machinery. Small farmers, especially in the Third World, are much more likely to plant crop mixtures — intercropping — where the empty space between the rows is occupied by other crops. They usually combine or rotate crops and livestock, with manure serving to replenish soil fertility.
Such integrated farming systems produce far more per unit area than do monocultures. Though the yield per unit area of one crop — corn, for example — may be lower on a small farm than on a large monoculture farm, the total production per unit area, often composed of more than a dozen crops and various animal products, can be far higher.
If we need a lot of food in a short time hybrids and the industrial way may be the answer, but it’s hardly the future.
Local food production will be the key in times of increased oil prices and transport cost.
The benefits of small farms extend into the ecological sphere. where large, industrial-style farms impose a scorched-earth mentality on resource management no trees, no wildlife, endless monocultures,small farmers can be very effective stewards of natural resources and the soil. To begin with, small farmers utilize a broad array of resources and have a vested interest in their sustainability. Their farming systems are diverse, incorporating and preserving significant functional biodiversity within the farm. By preserving biodiversity, open space, and trees, and by reducing land degradation, small farms provide valuable ecosystem services to the larger society.
I can’t see Ireland going back to the small farm, we are promoting it in Malawi. Will it catch on, who knows, but I know I will hardly see it!