Agriculture: Pillar for growth

African leaders have identified agriculture as a priority area of development
African leaders have identified agriculture as a priority area of development

Kizito Sikuka
Africa’s capacity to reform global affairs lies in its fertile soils and affluent water basins.
This is because, when fully harnessed, rich soils and abundant water basins can enable the continent not only to feed itself but also to become a major player in the global food and trade market.

Such a development would then level the global playing field that tends to benefit a few selected countries at the expense of the majority who possess natural resources such as land and water.

Recognising this potential in agriculture, African leaders have identified agriculture as a priority area of development. The leaders strongly believe that investment in agriculture can significantly contribute towards the realisation of many other priorities, including poverty eradication, improved regional trade, job creation, as well as peace and stability.

Furthermore, the achievement of these goals would allow Africa to assert its influence in global affairs as the continent will be self-sufficient and regarded as an equal partner in the global market.

As noted by the African Union (AU) Commission chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, in her address at the just-ended 10th Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) Partnership Platform meeting held in Durban, South Africa, the continent will achieve very little if issues of food security are not fully addressed.

She said agricultural development is a key vehicle for Africa to achieve socio-economic growth and become a major player in global affairs.

As such, she encouraged countries to step up the implementation of various agricultural measures, particularly CAADP, to boost production and ensure food security on the continent.

“The deeper we commit to the CAADP process, the greater the level of co-ordination, harmonisation and alignment to the strategy and priorities for Africa’s agricultural transformation,” she said.

CAADP is an Africa-wide framework for revitalising agriculture, food security and nutrition aims to assist African countries reach a higher path of economic growth through agricultural-led development.

Under this comprehensive programme, African governments have made a commitment to allocate at least 10 percent of their national budgets to the agricultural sector each year.

Ultimately, this ambitious and broad vision for agricultural reform in Africa aspires for an average annual growth rate of 6 percent in agriculture.

Zimbabwe as one of the signatories to the CAADP has made significant progress to achieve the targets, and has since crafted a national agricultural and food security investment plan to attract key investment in the sector.

Zimbabwe successfully signed the CAADP Compact in November 2013, becoming the 37th country in Africa to sign the document.

The signing is a reflection of Zimbabwe’s commitment to a shared vision and strategy for Africa’s agricultural development. At least 40 countries have signed the document so far, according to NEPAD.

Zimbabwe has said implementation of the CAADP will be guided by the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim Asset), to ensure that it is a success.

“Zim Asset will guide what measures we take to see whether there is any deviation from what we have agreed,” Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said at the signing of the CAADP Compact.

Zim Asset is a Government blueprint that will shape economic transformation and development in Zimbabwe for the next five years, spanning October 2013 to December 2018.

A total of four clusters, namely Food Security and Nutrition, Social Services and Poverty Eradication, Infrastructure and Utilities and Value Addition and Beneficiation, were identified to lead this economic transformation and development.

“The thrust of the Food Security and Nutrition cluster is to create a self-sufficient and food surplus economy and see Zimbabwe re-merge as the “breadbasket of Southern Africa,” reads part of Zim Asset, adding that the cluster programmes are aligned to CAADP and the Zimbabwe Agriculture Investment Plan.

Various strategies and targets have been identified to build a prosperous, diverse and competitive food security and nutrition sector. For example, the Government aims to avail adequate and affordable inputs such as seeds and fertilisers to farmers on time.

Plans are already underway to rehabilitate, build and modernise irrigation schemes, with a target to increase irrigated land from the current 50 000 hectares to about 220 000 hectares by 2018.

Silos for post-harvest storage will also be built to allow the country to store surplus crops for use in poor seasons.

A recent study by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that most countries in Southern Africa lose up to 40 percent of their produce after harvest because of poor storage facilities.

Another strategy for Zimbabwe is to invest in research, science and technology for agricultural development, and improve the dissemination of research information to farmers.

Access to research information is critical for planning purposes, particularly when farmers want to diversify into new crops or livestock.

Zimbabwe also aims to promote the production of drought, high-yielding and heat-tolerant crop varieties in the next five years.

These varieties will be critical in the face of persistent droughts as well as climate change, which have had an impact on the yields.

As part of the plant, at least 800 agro-dealers will be networked to improve access to markets for local farmers.

When fully implemented, the programmes contained in the Food Security and Nutrition cluster are expected to boost food production and ensure food security in Zimbabwe.

President Robert Mugabe has encouraged stakeholders to work together in reviving the agricultural sector by implementing Zim Asset.

“Government ministries and agencies, the private sector and development partners, and the nation at large are therefore called upon to work together in championing the implementation of this results-based agenda,” he said in his foreword to the Zim Asset.

The African Union Commission has also urged member states to continue up-scaling their implementation of various agriculture measures including CAADP to increase production.

Agriculture is the backbone of most economies in Africa, hence it has been considered a strategic sector with the 33rd AU Summit held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, declaring 2014 as the year of agriculture and food security.

African leaders are expected to adopt a series of measures aimed at transforming agricultural development at their forthcoming summit scheduled for June in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.

Kizito Sikuka is with the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre in Harare.

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