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AGRF 2016 Forum Highlights From The Great Debate Panel

by C. Muthoni Mahihu

AGRA was formed in 2006 in response to a call from former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who said the time had come for African farmers to wage a “uniquely African Green Revolution.”

AGRA’s vision is that Africa can feed itself and the world.  It is dedicated to changing the reality of agriculture in Africa, from farming as a solitary struggle to survive, to farming as a business that thrives.

Kenya played host to the 2016 African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) which was held in the United Nation Complex, Nairobi from September 5-9. The landmark Forum’s theme was Seize the Moment: Africa Rising through Agricultural Transformation 

Jakaya Kikwete- former president of Republic of Tanzania.

Address constraints impeding growth of agriculture in Africa

  1. The need to mechanize therefore [reducing] dominance of hand hoe
  2. Overdependence on rain needs to be countered with irrigation
  3. Reduce Overuse of low yielding traditional seeds
  4. Proper use of fertilizer.
  5. Proper use of pesticides to kills pests and diseases
  6. Educate farmers- we need skilled farmers
  7. Crop marketing system- farmers need reliable markets and good prices for their crops
  8. Services: financial services for inputs
  9. Infrastructure; irrigations, roads, electricity, telecommunications

CIMMYT Director General Martin Kropff

  • Innovate agri-food business
  • Models for the food chains
  • Strong basis in Research and Development
  • We need to move from subsistence to business agriculture.

Africa is a net importer. We import 35 billion worth of food in Africa but Africa can be a net exporter.

There needs to be collaborations across the value chains.- inclusive productivity. Agriculture development and growth is a prerequesit for growth and development of any county/region – Svein Tore Holsether, President and CEO, YARA.

On use of fertilizer -” When you start getting larger harvest, you have to replace those nutrients and African soils are too poor to continue to support large surplus harvest without fertilizer.”.Another critical area is African agri-entrepreneurs. They need support.”-  Joe DeVries – Chief, Agricultural Transformation, AGRA

“We are smoking something if we continue to say– Young people are going to save agriculture- it is not going to happen because young people have left the rural areas- they are not only leaving, they are dying in the high seas, they are overcrowding the cities, those who are able to get employment – mainly in government, when they go back they build houses on fields where that are supposed to grow food, because it is not attractive! The hand-hoe is not attractive to them….Young people will only stay if you make it worth their while. We need to talk about commercial farming…put anything in there, but put commerce- the profit into agriculture. Maybe we can have young people interested.” Sheila Sisulu

Panel question: How can we make agriculture sexy? -Maybe if we mechanize agriculture we can make it attractive to famers-.

-Have the youth participate in the agribusiness value chain- selling inputs to the farmers, selling the produce and building ICT solutions to solve issues faced in the farm.- Pres. Kikwete

Question by Daniel Gale, Commercial farmer, advocate for small holder farmer and chairman of a cooperative: “We are sitting on a continent and we are using less than 20%.. We need at least 5ha per farmer to make it economically viable, to survive in the current economic conditions in Africa. ..Give them 5 ha and they are commercial. Give then 100,000 dollars. 5 million ha, 5 million farmers, 500 million dollars.

Lessons from Tanzania’s Kilimo Kwanza initiative- Pres. Jakaya Kikwete.

They defined the roles of the private sector

  1. Produce inputs to the farmer
  2. Buy from the farmers
  3. Produce or add value to farm products- we cannot
  4. Finance/credit to farmers- chama?
  5. Get involved in agriculture as large scale producers and use small holder farmers as out growers- inputs, extension service and buy from the farmers- this worked with sugarcane farmers and rice farmers e.g. Kilombero rice farm.

Observations and actions on the research institutions

  1. Scientists were of advanced age and about to retire. Young scientists were not coming in. The scientists were not allowed to retire until they were too old
  2. Government was not providing money to Agriculture. It was the business of the donors and donors were giving money to those areas of interest to them. He decided the government will give 1% of the budget every year set aside for Agricultural research. This cash was able to train young scientists for masters and Phd’s. By the time he left office, they had trained about 400 scientists and the program is ongoing. They also set aside money for rehabilitation of the stations and to buy equipments.  Money was also set aside to rehabilitate the seed multiplication firms so that farmers could benefit from the work done by their scientists. Private sector was also to invest in seed multiplication so that farmers can get seeds.

“We are importing 75% of the seeds, and seeds are adaptive to soils and climate of the particular areas where they are developed. If you get seeds from Minnesota, they may not be appropriate for the conditions of Tanzania. ” Pres. Jakaya Kikwete.

“The tendency is to talk about markets out there. Many countries in Africa, that import bill of food, feeds our children in the school, it feeds our defense forces where they are being trained, it feeds people in hospitals that the state I paying for. My point is the markets are right here under our noses. Government is spending money anyway..Sorry feeding prisoners three times a day. Gov is spending that money anyway but they are spending it on importing food. Gov should be spending that money buying from the small local commercial farmer. Then they will grow the food because they know there is market. That is a nice way of subsidizing the farmer because you are making sure thet they are growing for gov and gov becomes a distributor of the food locally first before thinking internationally.” – Sheila Sisulu, former deputy director of the WFP.

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQFNDZZ8rw8

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