KIGALI - President Paul Kagame yesterday called upon African countries to commit more funds to the agricultural sector if the continent is to address the problem of food security and transform one of the major engines for growth and prosperity.
The President was speaking at a two-day meeting of the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development (CAADP) which opened in Kigali yesterday.
He said that few African countries have shown the commitment to transform the sector which the majority of the continent’s population depends on.
Addressing over 300 participants from different African countries signatory to the CAADP, Kagame said that African countries have not expressed full commitment to the process that is aimed at stimulating effective and sustainable poverty reduction through agriculture.
“Africans, on whose shoulders the responsibility of transforming the agriculture rightly falls, have devised a powerful home-grown initiative to address this challenge, the CAADP”.
“Africa’s development partners have expressed willingness to work with us to ensure that this programme succeeds. In other words, we have a global consensus in the critical need to modernise Africa’s agriculture so that it fulfils the historical objectives of providing food security and greater prosperity,” he said.
He added that the ‘unwavering commitment’ by all the 53 countries to eliminate hunger and reduce poverty by increasing public expenditure in agriculture to not less than 10 percent, has waned.
“The number of African countries that have implemented the agreed key, broad and specific requirements of the CAADP remains low. This does not mean that there no positive lessons from the CAADP,” Kagame said
He cited Malawi and Ghana as some of the few countries that have implemented agricultural transformation and proved that it is possible to achieve this in a short period while Rwanda’s experience shows that with development partners, food security can be achieved.
“Here in Rwanda, agriculture is becoming a powerful engine for our economic growth, making a turnaround after years of poor performance. This change was due to, among other things, increased public investment and expanded extension services that saw the sector grow by 16 percent last year,” Kagame told his audience.
He called for a comprehensive approach by the two sides, Africa and development partners, to assess the shortfalls in the sector transformation and come up with collective measures to address the imbalances.
On behalf of the World Bank, Hartwig Schafer, the Director of Strategy and Operations –Sustainable Development, said that the food crisis in 2008 drove over 100 million people on the continent into poverty and food insecurity, prompting the bank to come up with urgent agriculture support packages.
He said that WB is committed to support Rwanda to implement the CAADP programme by benefiting from the US $50m CAADP fund set up by the bank and other partners-as well as supporting government projects.
“We are committed to support Rwanda’s Agricultural Investment Programme together with other development partners here today,” Schafer said.
Also speaking on behalf of the donor platform and the British Government, Nick Dyer, the Policy Director of the UK’s Department for International Development, said that there is an urgent global need to cut down on the number of people suffering from poverty and hunger from 1 billion to a much lesser figure.
He said that 40 countries have put up a $20bn fund to tackle food security and hunger worldwide especially affecting women and children.
The US Government Representative, Gayle Smith, also reiterated her government’s commitment to support Rwanda’s agriculture development and transformation programmes.
She noted that President Barack Obama is committed to support CAADP as one of the ways to address food security challenges on the continent.
“We are here today because of Africa’s leadership and we are here today because of Rwanda’s willingness to take the lead in CAADP-. The United States is committed to this kind of process and it is committed to Rwanda’s plan,” said Smith, who is a Special Assistant to the US President.
African Union Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, also said that the continental body was impressed by Rwanda’s championing of the CAADP cause.’
Rwanda is the first signatory of CAADP.