AGRA launches Africa’s agriculture bible

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) has launched a report on the state of agriculture in Africa, the first of its kind in the continent, that analyses the staple crops production from farm to fork, and covering 16 countries, at a time when reports show that Africa could be the breadbasket of the world if policy matched action.

Dubbed The Africa Agriculture Status Report, the report has been hailed by industry players as the bible of African agriculture, identifying the exact problems that ail the continent’s green sector, providing home grown solutions while celebrating the milestones made across Africa. Traditionally policy makers, researchers and government officials involved in policy formulation for Africa’s agricultural intervention programmes relied on data from the Food and Agriculture Organization based in Rome. The argument has been, real data on Africa’s food situation wasn’t been captured entirely. “If we are to succeed in bringing about a Green Revolution in Africa, we need to record and understand where we are making progress, but also where we are lagging behind.

For the first time the Africa Agriculture Status Report shows us the big picture and allows us to make comparisons between countries. It provides much needed and reliable data and will, we hope lead to more informed policy making and greater accountability, “said Strive Masiyiwa the Vice Chair of the Board of AGRA while giving the keynote speech during the launch of the report in Maputo, Mozambique. Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania were among the 16 countries featured with maize, wheat and rice from Kenya featuring in the report.

Maize is the foundation staple in the Kenyan diet, with a per capita consumption of 98 kilograms. Yet, the price of maize in Kenya is among the highest in eastern and southern Africa. The lowest income segment of the Kenyan population spends 28 percent of its income on maize. Rice on the other end is Kenya’s third staple food with its consumption rising at a rate of 12 percent every year, according to the Ministry of Agriculture. But while it consumes 300,000 tonnes of rice each year, Kenya produces just 110,000 with the shortfall being made up through imports from Asia.

These imports have been costly, leaving the population particularly vulnerable to fluctuations in global food prices. Yet the mismatch between policy and production has put brakes on the region’s ability to deliver to world expectations. World Bank in a report says Africa can create a trillion-dollar food market by 2030 if they expanded their access to more capital, better technology, irrigated land and grow high-value nutritious foods says a World Bank report.

Africa’s food systems the 200 page report says, which are currently valued at US$313 billion a year from agriculture, could triple if governments and business leaders radically rethink their policies and support to agriculture, farmers, and agribusinesses, which together account for nearly 50 percent of Africa’s economic activity. But such policies would need to be approached from a point of information. Such informed decision would, according to analysts, spell the trends and commitments towards agriculture.

“The African Agriculture Status Report is being published at a critical time for the continent. Ten years on from the Maputo Declaration, we can recognize some significant progress, but we must also shine a light on areas where action and investment are urgently needed. This new resource will guide policy makers to direct resources and efforts so that they can have the greatest impact on achieving food security and alleviating poverty,” said Jane Karuku the President of AGRA speaking at the launch of the report at the sidelines of the African Green Revolution Forum.

Having taken two years to develop and written in association with a range of agricultural experts from leading research and academic organizations, the Africa Agricultural Status Report touches on key issues like land, agriculture financing, markets, rural women, and extension services among others. It combines data and analysis from over 15 national and international organizations, including ministries of Agriculture, World Bank, Food and Agriculture Organization among others.

A copy of the Africa Agriculture status report launched by AGRAWith land being an emotive factor of production for the millions of small holder farmers in Africa, the report
dedicates an entire chapter to tackle the current status of farming land in Africa, its challenges and the opportunities. A vast section of land is uncultivated which has encouraged over reliance on food imports that has not only denied countries jobs, but also foreign exchange. Africa spends $40-50 billion annually on these imports.

This, even as scientists argue that far from being short of land, countries like Kenya have the potential to feed their population and export. The Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, KARI, reports that yields are still running at a fraction of their potential, with the take-up by Kenyan farmers of all the certified quality and high yielding seeds KARI has ever released still running at only around 1 to 2 per cent, with more than 90 per cent of Kenyan farmers using old-style, low yield seeds.

Many of the new seeds offer the potential to double or triple yields on the same land, simply by switching from lower yielding, more common varieties. “A lot of huge imports may be at times meant for emergencies, refugee camps and for countries that are not yet secure. Still this would not be adequate excuse for Africa to continue to import food, yet our arable land can ably produce enough to feed the entire continent irrespective of any situation,” said Mrs Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, the Commissioner for rural economy and agriculture of the African Union