Opinion: Africa’s Agricultural Revolution Depends On Smallholder Farmers

Opinion: Africa’s Agricultural Revolution Depends On Smallholder Farmers

Written by Jane Karuku | From The New Times Via AllAfrica

AFRICA’S Ministers of Agriculture are meeting in Addis Ababa this week to debate the policies that will shape an agricultural market projected to be worth USD 1 trillion by 2030, three times its size in 2010. We may argue that number up or down, but one thing is certain: we should never underestimate Africa’s entrepreneurial drive or the potential of our millions of smallholder farmers to feed Africa and the world. Africa’s smallholder farmers can be agriculture’s game changer.

Eighty percent of the food we eat in Africa is produced by smallholder farmers-people who tend crops and raise livestock on less than a hectare of land-and most of them are women. Right now their production is far below their potential. But when Africa’s farmers have what farmers elsewhere in the world take for granted, they will rapidly catch up. That means empowering them with access to finance, agricultural technologies and markets, and through secure rights to their land, effective extension services and supportive policies.

Initiatives that enable African farmers to adapt to growing conditions rapidly being altered by climate change are also critical. And we can further fuel Africa’s agricultural development by confronting the gender gap in agriculture and overcoming obstacles that limit the productivity of women farmers relative to men.

By putting these basic principles into practice, and forging strategic, well-considered partnerships, our smallholder farms can succeed as businesses connected to thriving local, regional and global markets. Their progress will infuse new energy into the global economy and our rural economies can thrive. When Africa’s smallholder farmers prosper, the world will prosper.

The alternative is grim. The reality is that in Africa today, half of our population lives in extreme poverty, and more than 60 percent of the population is in remote rural areas-and this will not change any time soon. Furthermore, between 2012 and 2050, the population of most of sub-Saharan Africa will more than double, putting it at 11.3 times its 1950 level. What will give all Africans the opportunity to have healthy diets, earn income, and live dignified lives in 2015 and 2050?

Read more at AllAfrica