REJUVENATING AFRICA’S AGRICULTURE SUB-SECTOR – PART 2 — ‘’TOGETHER LET’S ARISE & FEED AFRICA’’
‘’Africa spends $35 billion a year importing food and this is projected to rise to $110 billion by 2020, if the current trend continues. ‘’Yet Africa has 65% of the arable land left to feed the world by 2050. ‘’This is totally unacceptable. ‘’The future of food in the world will depend on what Africa does with agriculture. ‘’Therefore, we must change our view on agriculture. ”Agriculture is not a development activity or a social sector. ‘’Agriculture is a business. ‘We must not use agriculture to manage poverty.’’ – Akinwumi Adesina
In our last post, we featured international star, DR. AKINWUMI ADESINA, President, African Development Bank, whose giant strides and commitment to the development of Agriculture have obtruded themselves. We sincerely noted that given our findings in our research into the Agriculture sub-sector of our national life, there is an urgent need for huge sensitization of the citizenry. And it seems very imperative for the three tiers of government need to go through policy papers in order to galvanize the nation into showing more interest in agriculture.
NO AWARD/MEDAL/DECORATION: We never planned to devote two days to only one personality; but given the importance of what we gathered during our research into Agriculture, our patriotic instincts and social responsibility were challenged. We state, with the greatest sense of responsibility and humility that NOBODY has paid us for this service of public enlightenment that is in public and national interest; neither have we requested for payment from anybody. We have NOT also done this to give any of the personalities any award. We are conducting this exercise to invite attention to what could be done to BUILD A GREATER NIGERIA. That is the pure motive.
FINDINGS – REMOVE BOTTLENECKS: We make this request for the removal of bottlenecks, given our knowledge of the constraints of governments in the developing world. It is very possible that some patriots are building or suggesting the best ways to build; and at the same time some others are elsewhere, planning how to frustrate such efforts. We note that it is very possible for bureaucratic bottlenecks to frustrate good intentions in the process of a professional attempting to give his or her best. It is possible for someone to sit somewhere and decide to thwart efforts of a hardworking appointee on flimsy grounds due to differences in opinions and other mundane considerations.
Sometimes, a hardworking personality in both the public and private sectors could become an object of envy and orchestrated negative plans to destroy. In this type of situation, it would take the big boss to demonstrate an extra interest in some policies and programmes for the common good, and demand for periodic reports from the bureaucracy. This is where it is important to situate Policies, Programmes & Plans Implementation Monitoring units in offices of big bosses, in both the public and private sectors to invite the attention of bosses to salient issues on which action must be taken. There must be measurable goals. This is the essence of Part 2 ofo our focus on the contributions of Akinwumi Adesina to national sub-regional and regional development in the field of Agriculture.
THE GOOD OLD DAYS: Adesina lamented that: ‘’In the 1960s, before it turned to oil, Nigeria was one of the most promising agricultural producers in the world. ‘’Between 1962 and 1968, export crops were the country’s main foreign exchange earner. The country was number one globally in palm oil exports, well ahead of Malaysia and Indonesia, and exported 47 percent of all groundnuts, putting it ahead of the United States and Argentina. ‘’But its status as an agricultural power house has declined, and steeply. While Nigeria once provided 18 percent of the global production of cocoa, second in the world in the 1960s, that figure is now down to 8 percent. ”And while the country produces 65 percent of tomatoes in West Africa, it is now the largest importer of tomato paste.’’ It would seem very appropriate for the three tiers of government to look urgently into how to sensitize the populace about policy decisions in agriculture. I say so because as part of the elite class and an opinion leader, I never knew that the neglect of agriculture has that level of far-reaching consequences, to the extent that Africa is expected to substantially feed the whole world by 2050.
AGRICULTURE IS THE FUTURE IN NIGERIA & AFRICA: His recipe is that: ‘’We must use agriculture to create wealth. ‘’The challenge of addressing global food security is greatest in Africa where close to 300 million are malnourished. ‘’It is also the only region of the world where the proportion of the population that is food insecure has increased. ‘’Yet, Africa holds the key for feeding the 9 billion people that will be on the planet earth by 2050. ‘’This is because Africa sits on 65% of the uncultivated arable land left in the world. What Africa does with agriculture will undoubtedly determine the future of food in the world!’’ According to Adesina: ‘’The savannas of Africa cover a mind-boggling 600 million hectares, of which 400 million hectares are cultivable. ‘’But just 10% of this is cultivated, a mere 40 million hectares. ‘’So massive is the potential that the World Bank called the guinea savanna zone, one of the major underutilized resources in Africa.
AfDB INVESTING: Adesina asserts that: ‘’We must ensure that small, medium scale and large-scale commercial farmers co-exist in a way that allows opportunities for all. Partnerships in research and development will be crucial. ‘’That is why the African Development Bank has engaged to work with the strongest possible organizations with proven track records in tropical agriculture from South America. This includes the Brazilian Research Corporation (EMBRAPA), the Agricultural Corporation of Brazil (CAMPO), as well as others with long experience in conservation agriculture, including the Argentine Association of Zero-tillage, and the Argentine Agricultural Research Institute.’’ The African Development Bank, under the leadership of Akinwumi Adesina is investing US$24 bn in the agriculture sector and agribusiness over the next 10 years in order to turn agriculture into a highly profitable venture that could lead millions out of poverty.
POLITICAL WILL: According to the AfDB president, Africa is blessed with the resources to accomplish this task, including the land, cheap labour, and sunshine, while imploring governments of African nations to develop the right infrastructure, good market, good financing, have the political will to develop and get it done by agriculture. It might be worth it for our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora to consider going into partnerships with foreign investors and encourage them to come into Nigeria to participate in agriculture. But we must cultivate them to think and move in that direction. The future of food in the world will depend on what Africa does with agriculture Africa must feed itself. Africa spends $35 billion a year importing food and this is projected to rise to $110 billion by 2020, if the current trend continues. Yet Africa has 65% of the arable land left to feed the world by 2050. This is totally unacceptable. The future of food in the world will depend on what Africa does with agriculture. Therefore, we must change our view on agriculture. Agriculture is not a development activity or a social sector. Agriculture is a business. We must not use agriculture to manage poverty. We must use agriculture to create wealth.
UNLOCKING POTENTIALS: The savannas of Africa cover a mind-boggling 600 million hectares, of which 400 million hectares are cultivable. But just 10% of this is cultivated, a mere 40 million hectares. So massive is the potential that the World Bank called the guinea savanna zone “one of the major underutilized resources in Africa”. Africa’s savannas are not that different from those of Brazil. Indeed, they are better than the savannas of Brazil, because their soils are not acidic and therefore do not need liming which had to be done at massive scales in Brazil. Yet, while the savannas of Brazil feed the world, those of Africa cannot even feed the farmers there. Technologies, innovations, research and development, mechanization, modernization of agriculture, policy support and massive investments in infrastructure are what made the difference and turned the savannahs of Brazil and those of Northern Thailand into food power houses. To transform its agriculture, Africa needs to make a decisive decision to develop new agrarian systems, one that combines smallholder farmers with a new dynamic generation of medium and large commercial farmers.
WAKE UP CALL: Large commercial farmers played a huge role in Brazil, while in northern Thailand it was built around small farmers. One common thread in both agricultural revolutions, was the rapid growth of the private sector and public policies that allowed these regions to inter-phase with external markets. Today, Brazil dominates global soybean production. Thailand dominates global rice and cassava markets. The initiative will start by bringing approximately 2 million hectares of savannah in eight African countries – Ghana, Guinea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, and Mozambique – under the cultivation of maize, soybean, and livestock production in optimum conditions.The African Development Bank’s Feed Africa strategy has launched the Transformation of the African Savannah Initiatives (TASI) to help unlock the potential of the savannas of Africa. Success in this endeavor requires that we wake up the savannas of Africa. When we do so, African agriculture will indeed rise up from its slumber!
So, let’s wake up Africa’s savannas and turn them into the new wealth zones of Africa – and unleash Africa as a global powerhouse in food, Africa must learn from the experiences that have worked elsewhere, while tailoring the interventions to the specific realities of Africa. We must ensure that small, medium scale and large-scale commercial farmers co-exist in a way that allows opportunities for all. Partnerships in research and development will be crucial. That is why the African Development Bank has engaged to work with the strongest possible organizations with proven track records in tropical agriculture from South America. This includes the Brazilian Research Corporation (EMBRAPA), the Agricultural Corporation of Brazil (CAMPO), as well as others with long experience in conservation agriculture, including the Argentine Association of Zero-tillage, and the Argentine Agricultural Research Institute.
They will work very closely with universities and the national agricultural research systems across the savannas of Africa. The Bank will also provide support to strengthen African agricultural research and development systems to play significant roles in the transformation processes, and ensure that valuable research no longer simply gathers dust on the shelves of academia. Instead, valuable research must meet the needs of farmers and agri-businesses in ways that exponentially increase productivity and improve the quality of lives of our rural poor. In doing so, the private sector must also play an important role to help develop viable agricultural value chains that create market and income opportunities for farmers across the savannas. There is a critical need for supportive public policies and significant investments in infrastructure, especially for roads, irrigation, storage, warehousing and agro-processing.
PRIVATE SECTOR INITIATIVE: Nigeria has policy formulating bodies at the three tiers of government that draw policies for implementation in the field of Agriculture. But what has been suggested as the most potent means of promoting agriculture is private sector involvement through incentives that would draw investments into this important sub-sector. Intending investors could go online to discover or educate themselves about the vast and limitless opportunities available in Nigeria. Perhaps engaging our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora could help us because they could patriotically bring investments into the country to grow agriculture.
POLITICAL IMMATURITY & BAD BLOOD: This issue robs us of so many opportunities and blessings. But it must be noted that there must be positive signs of political maturity and stability before foreign investments would come into the country. For instance, I am aware that in the past, an attempt by one big foreign agency in 2008, to bring in N3 Billion into Nigeria for the purpose of agricultural development to produce raw materials for industrialization in a society, was thwarted by politics of bad blood. I know because I processed the documentation and Letter of No Objection at the then National Planning Commission that gave the go ahead. And there could be other acts like that! Unfortunately, a notice of CAVEAT EMPTOR was circulated that indicated that the leader of the team negotiating for the investment had run away and had no authority to do so! Who lost? The larger community of Nigerians, of course. Nigeria’s Ambassador to that country was terribly disappointed. That is just one case.
THE WAY FORWARD: Having examined Akinwumi Adesina’s patriotic and professional contributions in his field of specialization, TERRIFIC HEADLINES believes that there could be out there a few other Adesinas that remain undiscovered and frustrated by the system. It is our collective duty to seek and find them in national interest. As a continent with a collective GDP of about US$2 trillion, Africa holds about 14 percent of the world’s population, and more than 60 percent of uncultivated arable land. Regrettably, less than 10 percent of arable land in Africa is being utilized for farming, thus leaving huge cultivable arable lands on the vast continent uncultivated. Additionally, the imperative of good governance and the evolution of a viable political culture in Africa are most desirable. ’The continent is tremendously rich in resources; but is surprisingly, as at 2013, the poorest continent in the world. Interestingly, economic indices show that Africa is the fastest-growing continent at 5.6% a year; and GDP is expected to rise by an average of over 6% a year between 2013 and 2023. World Bank experts expect that most African countries will attain ”middle income status by 2025. But what is the way forward? TERRIFIC HEADLINES narrows the answer down to Nigeria.
In one of my books titled: AFRICA: THE GAME CHANGERS & DYNAMICS OF POWER; it is stated that: ‘’Africa’s leadership must be prepared to adjust and improvise in order to effect the necessary structural adjustments in the global economic and political arena, muster all the resources available, and strategize for the evolution of a more prosperous polity. In his public speech during his visit to Ghana, President Barack Obama of the United States alluded to the rich resources and potential of Africa and declared that “Africa’s future is up to Africans.” Obama pointed out that development depends on good governance; noting that “That is the ingredient that has been missing for too long. And that is the responsibility that can be met in Africa only by Africans.” That is a very correct declaration and Africans must be mobilized to be conscious of this naked fact. Africa is tremendously rich in several natural resources, including agriculture; but less than 10 per cent of arable land in Africa is being utilized for farming, thus leaving huge cultivable arable lands on the vast continent uncultivated. Regrettably, the tremendously blessed continent, as at 2013, was the poorest region in the world.
POLICIES: Whoever has interacted with the current Hon. Minister of Agriculture & Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh would agree that Nigeria is blessed with a great and tremendously brainy personality with excellent organizational ability. He has the requisite experience. But we certainly cannot comment on the type of support and encouragement he and his ministry receives from diverse sources. I once told a close friend of Chief Ogbeh in Osogbo, in 2006, when he wrote the foreword to one of my compilations, and late last year, when I met with him personally that he is a Presidential material, given the little I know about him and his very high intelligence. He laughed and never responded. But experts believe that the federal government should, as part of the proposed restructuring divest itself of responsibilities it currently handles in Agriculture & Rural Development; and allow States and local governments to provide an enabling environment for the development of this very important sector.
May the good Lord bless Nigeria.