Smallholders themselves know best how agriculture can produce more under the circumstances they are working and living in.>br />Photo: © Anke Schönborn

Does Africa need a Green Revolution?

When it comes to accelerating growth in Africa with the aid of the agricultural sector, elaborate organisation charts are hastily compiled. But is farmers’ experience sufficiently taken into account? Expert talks at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Berlin in late August 2014 brought theory and practice together.

Since 2003, the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) has acted as a framework for agricultural development in what is often referred to as the Continent of Opportunity. But so far, the goals of raising agricultural growth to an annual six per cent and investing at least ten per cent of the national budget have still not been achieved in most of the countries. Only three years later, the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) launched its Framework for African Agricultural Productivity (FAAP). In spite of all this, in terms of yield and productivity, African agriculture was lagging behind the other developing countries, Dr. Aggrey Agumya of the FARA Secretariat in Ghana noted at the Conrad Adenauer Foundation’s expert talks. Agumya commented: “The pressure is on!” In January 2015, the African governments seek to adopt a revised CAADP consisting of a strategy to double agricultural production by 2025. 

 

Implementing new farming systems

Prof. Keijiro Otsuka of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo is opting for local knowledge. According to Otsuka, smallholders themselves know best how agriculture can produce more under the circumstances they are working and living in. Otsuka emphasised that the World Agricultural Report was also being implemented at local level, for it was being interpreted differently. Should the focus be on more research, on improved maize seed or on intensifying rice production? 

Otsuka believes that the management capacities of the smallholders play a crucial role. With the aid of terracing and irrigation, they have succeeded in raising rice yield from an average 1.3 to well over two tons a hectare over the past years. Otsuka maintains that smallholders try out new seed more often than large-scale farms do, and that they are more open-minded towards new methods. He thinks that only concentrating on yield increases is frequently not the right approach and refers to cultivating maize and beans together providing an additional yield in the form of better soil fertility thanks to nitrogen fixing by the legume, despite its causing the actual maize yield to drop by 20 per cent. Otsuka also stresses that it is important to provide smallholders with more support in the field of management, and points to numerous examples of animal husbandry being integrated in crop-growing locations and enabling an additional economic effect. However, many open questions still remain in this area. Isn’t it better to compost dung in the farmyard than to spread it on the fields? How many large animals can a regional location support? And how can the farmers obtain hybrid animals with which the performance of the local races has been improved? Otsuka mentions India and its “White Revolution” as a good example that Africa could follow in developing its rural regions.

 

German Federal Government plans “Green Innovation Centres”

The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development is currently establishing so-called green innovation centres. In this context, Federal Minister Dr. Gerd Müller has initiated the campaign “For a World without hunger”. Its director, Stefan Schmitz, presented the initiative to the round of experts. It is based on the two CAADP focal areas of market development and research, and in addition to rural development and food security, it is to bear the third pillar of additional financial resources. Its aims are eliminating hunger and malnutrition and providing food resources for all coming generations. The initiative intends to concentrate planning and integrate farmers at local level. The centres are to initiate innovation processes and promote education and training. The aim is to support smallholders and integrate informal markets. Agriculture is to be intensified in an environmentally compatible manner. Mali has already undergone the selection procedure for the establishment of such a centre. Further testing missions have been planned for Ethiopia, Kenya, Zambia and Togo throughout September. 

 

More information:

CAADP 

Framework for African Agricultural Productivity (FAAP)

Roland Krieg
, Journalist, Berlin/Germany