3rd eDialogue on ‘Africa Regional Perspectives’
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The sessions on ‘Regional Perspectives’, explored the dynamics of small-scale agriculture and food system change across Africa, Asia and South America.
The African session observed the trends affecting small-scale farming households across Africa, and included Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) researchers, including Adebayo Aromoloran, Dean of Faculty of Agriculture at the Adekunle Ajasin University in Nigeria and Aida Isinika, Associate Professor at Sokoine University.
Other experts who participated included Cyriaque Hakizimana, Researcher at Institute of Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies, South Africa; Abdelbagi M. Ismail, Principal Scientist and IRRI Representative for Africa; Martin T Muchero, International Consultant; and Jemimah Njuki, Senior Programme Specialist at IDRC.
Adebayo Aromoloran emphasised that small-scale farms provide the means of livelihood for over 85 per cent of people living in Africa’s rural areas, and are key for food security, poverty reduction and employment. He said that decades of investment failed to enable structural change and tackle the existing challenges, and that a move towards medium-scale farms is crucial. He also observed that an increasing market orientation has helped to increase income and reduce poverty, whereas increasing farm sizes has expanded crop output, leading to some increases in crop productivity.
Aida Isinika highlighted thatAfrica’s ecological diversity causes varying opportunities and constraints and thus, results in a diversity of farmers. Farmers mostly prefer to stay in agriculture and apply various strategies to reduce poverty. She also noted that more than half of agricultural products are cash crops, and that farmers diversify by combining off-farm and on-farm activities. Farmers produce high–value crops in areas of land limitations and extend farm sizes when land is available.
Cyriaque Hakizimana stated that many aspiring young farmers face challenges to access the government’s incentives in the form of access to productive land, natural resources, inputs, productive tools, extension, advisory, and financial services, education, training, markets, information, and inclusion in decision-making. He emphasised that countries need an efficient and coherent agricultural finance policy framework to enable and facilitate the entry of Africa’s rural youth into farming production.
Abdelbagi Ismail said that reducing poverty and hunger in sub-Saharan Africa largely depends on the growth of this sector by improving and sustaining productivity, increasing quality and competitiveness of farm products and sustaining access to markets. To move from subsistence to commercial farming, he stated that small-scale farmers must transition from traditional to modern production systems, have better access to inputs including fertilisers and seed, appropriate postharvest handling, and better infrastructure (e.g. roads and electricity).
Martin Muchero highlighted the impact of COVID-19 on traders and small-scale farmers. Job losses mean reduced income sources and fewer means for accessing food, threatening the food security of households. Price inflation will also increase the prices of commodities, particularly imports. He emphasised that policies should support the development of robust rural non-farm enterprise systems and support the development of agro-processing in rural areas.
Jemimah Njuki observed that securing sustainable food systems hinges on gender equality, which is possible if women, youth and indigenous people everywhere are empowered, and their rights recognised and respected. She pointed out that the discriminatory systems that cause inequality must be fixed, instead of constantly trying to fix women and youth, as though they are the issue. In addition, she said that women and youth need to be embraced as leaders in smallholder agriculture to ensure they are involved in decision-making at all levels.
Listen to the whole session, here:
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Feature photo credit: Arne Hoel / World Bank