By IVAN R. MUGISHA

African countries must increase spending in agriculture in order to transform the lives of a majority of the people and ensure food security to end rampant poverty, experts have said.

The experts called on both government leaders and private sector to increase efforts in improving agriculture in the continent during the ongoing African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Kigali, Rwanda, on Wednesday.

At the forum, delegates are meeting to seek ways that could improve farmers’ welfare and boost agriculture production including addressing concerns on value chains and quality seeds.

The biennial event was last hosted in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2016 where government and business leaders pledged investments of about $30 billion to support smallholder farmers, agribusiness and food-chain development.

Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) president Agnes Kalibata, speaking to The EastAfrican on Wednesday, said the continent needs to improve its food security status and increase investments in agriculture to realise economic growth.

“Business as usual will not achieve our goals; we must do more and do it more successfully. To this day, Africa still produces less on agriculture land because mechanisation is still very low. We must scale up mechanisation and use high quality seeds across Africa,” she said.

“Both governments and private sectors must use the new opportunities before us to improve agriculture and deploy solutions faster that allow the continent to leapfrog.”

Dr Kalibata said smallholder farmers constantly suffer low incomes and poor living standards yet they provide more than 80 per cent of the food and agricultural products consumed across the continent.

She said Africa lacks readily available data on agriculture, and that sometimes government data conflicts with that of researchers and international organisations.

“But we are seeing more commitment by governments to increase agriculture funding. For example in 2016, the Kenyan government committed Ksh200 million ($2 million) as a fund to the youth engaged in the agriculture value chain, and this is something that is working well for the country and for the youth,” she said.

AGRA is also financing a $25 million five-year agricultural strategic plan unveiled by the Rwandan government in 2016.

Rwanda was in April ranked as the top performer in prioritising agriculture, improving farmers’ incomes and food security by the African Union (AU).

The AU African Agricultural Transformation Scorecard evaluated the progress made by the continent’s nations towards achieving commitments of the Malabo Declaration.

The Declaration calls on African governments to allocate at least 10 per cent of their national budgets to agriculture with the aim of promoting agricultural transformation, food security, nutrition, and wealth creation.

Only 20 countries are on track to achieve their commitments, according to the AU, and include Rwanda, Mali, Morocco, Ethiopia, Togo, Malawi, Kenya, Mauritania, Burundi and Uganda.

The Kigali forum, running from September 5 – 8, will be seeking to raise about $20 billion in investments from the private sector as well as launch innovations in agricultural financing such as risk-sharing loan facilities for farmers.

First Published by the East African

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