Sunday, May 12, 2013

Investment in agriculture has impact on poverty reduction - AGRA
By Joan Chirwa-Ngoma
Sat 11 May 2013, 14:00 CAT

EVERY dollar invested in agriculture in Africa has an impact on poverty reduction, notes Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa president Jane Karuku.

According to Karuku, the impact of investments in agriculture is up to three to four times greater than the same amount invested in other sectors.

AGRA called on global leaders at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town on Thursday to recognise that agriculture's rightful place is at the heart of the continent's growth.

Realising the commitments made by several African governments, Zambia inclusive, in Maputo where they pledged to increase allocations to agriculture to at least 10 per cent of their national budgets, Karuku said as the clock ticks towards 2014, the pressure is now on for African states to live up to their commitments to agriculture.

"Growth in Africa's agricultural sector, food security and poverty alleviation across the continent all depend on achieving this goal," she said.

However, Zambia is one of the countries lagging behind in budgetary allocations to agriculture, with this year's K32.2 trillion (KR32.2 billion) budget only committing about K2.6 trillion (KR2.6 billion) or around eight per cent to the sector, which has been recognised as having massive potential for job creation.

"It makes good sense to increase investment in agriculture in line with the CAADP commitments. As our evidence shows, every dollar invested in agriculture in Africa has an impact on poverty reduction which is up to three to four times greater than the same amount invested in other sectors," said Karuku.

According to the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), in 2010, only eight African countries had met their pledge to commit 10 per cent of their national budget to agriculture, while many others were making progress.

Karuku said the biggest contribution to reducing poverty could come from the agricultural sector where "most Africans earn their livelihoods".

"Africa needs widespread and sustainable economic growth, and the continent is showing fast progress.

Smallholder farmers in Africa face many challenges, but the opportunities on offer should far exceed these," she said.

"Governments have a big role to play in resolving the unfriendly business environment that currently prevents smallholder farmers from commercialising their operations and moving beyond subsistence. We need to ensure that farmers have access to inputs like improved seeds, but they must also be empowered to sell their own produce on markets."

Karuku attended the World Economic Forum on Africa with Strive Masiyiwa, vice chair of AGRA and founder of Econet Wireless, to encourage governments and other leaders to urgently close the gap between the current and the potential contribution that agriculture makes to Africa's growth and development.

Masiyiwa said: "WEF Africa 2013 is asking the question: how we can deliver on Africa's promise? The answer is that agriculture must be at the heart of our efforts. Governments must become much more courageous on this issue, especially when it comes to land rights, the policy environment, and access to finance and infrastructure."

He emphasised the role of the private sector in achieving sustainable growth in the agriculture sector.

"Promoting investment in the agriculture sector requires governments and other stakeholders to speak to private investors, so that they gain a better understanding of the business environment, the regulatory bottlenecks they face, and the incentives on offer," said Masiyiwa.

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