Half of all malnourished people in Africa are farmers who produce food, an expert in agriculture has said.
Professor Calestous Juma, who is Professor of the Practice of International Development at Harvard Kennedy School said these at the Truth about Trade and Technology (TATT) event at the ongoing World Food Prize programme in Iowa, USA.
Prof Juma author of the book, The New Harvest, Agriculture Innovation in Africa said African farmers grow just enough food that they can carry home to eat, because the continent’s infrastructure deficit creates mobility challenges for farmers.
According to Prof. Juma giving farmers choices to use technology will transform their own lives and enable them to contribute to the global food basket.
He argued that farmers are smart enough to know that when you plant a seed, it grows and bears more fruit, the infrastructure challenges of the continent however, makes it difficult for farmers to move produce from the farms, he said.
“They grow enough to carry, and not enough to eat. They can’t grow crops and if they grow they can’t transport, because of lack of roads,” he said.
He suggested that existing technologies for crop yield can be adopted to African situations, urging the harnessing of available knowledge for improved crop yields.
He said African countries are investing in four areas of infrastructure development: telecoms, transportation, energy and education to open up rural areas.
Prof. Juma said, unfortunately, much of the discussions on biotechnology in Africa has focused on the risks and not the benefits.
He called on African governments to make farmers the centre of agric to get the sector moving.
He also called on the media in Africa to publicise the good examples in agriculture on the continent.
In his remarks, Jose Fernandez, US Assistant Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs reiterated the point that the challenges of feeding the world are great, because agriculture production systems are under pressure as never before, “and this pressure will not decrease in the coming decades,” he said.
Citing the UN, he said the FAO estimates that a doubling of agriculture output will be needed by 2050 to feed a population of more than nine billion people. He however indicated that “doubling of production will need to occur despite challenges caused by climate change, including water shortages and increased salinity of soil.”
“We have an enormous task ahead of us to maintain and expand our economic growth in the agriculture sector,” he said.
“The good news is we are not powerless to meet the challenge. Through a multi-pronged approach, and efforts by governments, business, and civil society, we are adapting to change and moving forward,” he said.
He added, “through technology, we are making seeds more drought and pest resistant. Through development projects we are improving farmers’ access to credit and to markets, and addressing gender inequalities that inhibit agricultural production. And through improvements in supply chains, we are reducing pre-and post-harvest losses and ensuring more food reaches consumers. As a global community, we will need to continue and expand these programmes in order to meet our future challenges.”
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi, in Iowa, USA.