As the world grapples with the food crisis, senior policy makers in Africa are developing appropriate policies to achieve a Green Revolution that will rapidly raise agricultural productivity for small-scale farmers in Africa. More than 90 senior policy makers and leaders from the private sector, academia, civil society and farmers organizations convened early this week to identify priority policies and institutions needed to achieve a uniquely African Green Revolution. Representatives from 15 African countries, as well as others from Europe, the United States and Asia, participated in the two-day meeting convened by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
"Our goal is to end Africa's perpetual food crisis by mobilizing the political will and assisting countries in the development of policies that will enable Africa's smallholder farmers to grow exponentially more food and end hunger," said AGRA President Dr. Namanga A. Ngongi.
Underscoring the need for a policy action agenda for Africa, Hon. William Ruto, and Kenya’s Minister for Agriculture and Chairman of the African Council of Ministers of Agriculture, said, "The current world-wide food crisis has provided a wake up call for the policy makers to reorient their planning process to provide viable and sustainable solutions… [for] a green revolution which will dramatically increase Agricultural Productivity and lift the bulk of our population out of poverty."
The meeting addressed policies in four critical areas: seed and fertilizer markets; finance and risk management; product markets, strategic grain reserves and regional trade; and land tenure and other social issues. It also discussed how to build the capacity of African policy analysts and institutions that will support evidence-based policy development.
"The center of debate on policies for African agriculture needs to shift from Washington to Africa; and African countries, policy makers and stakeholders must lead the way," said Dr. Akin Adesina, AGRA's Vice President of Policy and Partnerships.
"Capacity building to develop appropriate policies for the Green Revolution must be holistic, consider the entire value chain, and take a long-term view," said Dr. Harris Mule, Chancellor of Kenyatta University, Kenya, who also co-chaired the meeting.
Participants recommended a range of possible policy responses needed, noting that one-size-fits-all policies will not work, and emphasizing the need to recognize the diversity of African countries and agricultural systems. Among the policies recommended were: Policies that specifically and intentionally benefit small-scale farmers; support market development, including through the rapid scaling-up of networks of rural input shops known as "agro-dealers," who are able to get seeds, fertilizers and other farm inputs to remote rural areas; increase farmers' and agro-dealers' access to affordable credit and loans; promote "smart" subsidies that enable poor smallholder farmers to access high quality seeds and fertilizers and other farm inputs; ensure that governments invest in public goods such as rural roads, irrigation, electricity, agricultural research and improved extension services; Land tenure policies that secure the rights of small-holder farmers, especially women who generally have more limited rights to land ownership; policies that stabilize food prices for farmers and consumers and Risk-mitigation policies, such as weather-indexed crop insurance -- particularly important given projected negative impacts of climate change on African agriculture.
Participants also recommended that African countries and regions establish policy centers of excellence that would develop increased capacity in data collection, statistics and analysis, in close collaboration with African governments. Such centers would provide African countries with sound policy frameworks and build trust in policy formulation.
Dr. Praghu Pingali, Head of Agricultural Policy and Statistics, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said that African governments will need better data and statistics to improve policy decision making. Ensuring that appropriate monitoring and evaluation systems are in place is critical for assessing the impacts of policies on agricultural productivity, food security, rural employment and rural income.
Participants expressed the need to strengthen partnerships. Prof. Richard Mkandawire, Agriculture Adviser for NEPAD said that Partnership with all stakeholders is the way forward hence the gathering was an important first step in charting an agenda for action and greater focus on home-grown solutions to the continent’s food situation.
By Stella Kihara and Preeti Singh
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