Africa is endowed with immense fertile soils and good climatic conditions. It boasts of huge chunks of unexploited arable land, presenting it opportunities to become a food basket for the world.
Despite this, malnutrition and hunger are common, with some countries on the continent having to depend on food handouts to feed their starving populations. All this could, however, change with commitment from African leaders and financial institutions to extend more funding to agriculture.
Though African leaders committed to increase agriculture funding to at least 10 per cent of national budgets as per 2003 Maputo Declaration on agriculture and food security, the majority are yet to fulfill the pledge.
Poor infrastructure and bias toward the sector have also conspired to scare away private sector players from investing in agriculture. Banks see farming as risky, explaining why only about 5 per cent of those involved in farming on the continent access loans, which has affected the sector’s performance and growth.
Therefore, the continent needs to act now, and adopt more proactive approaches, research and modern farming practices. There is also need to provide access to targeted funding by governments and banks, especially to farmer co-operatives and large-scale farmers.
Private sector participation is crucial for services like tailor-made agro insurance products, and large scale farming initiatives to spur production. On top of that, more funds need to be committed to research to assure a steady supply of high-yielding varieties, and provision of new farming innovations and interventions.
With the weather patterns becoming unpredictable because of climate change, it is essential to embrace smart agricultural practices, like irrigation and application of fertilisers. Agriculture should also be promoted as a business, with governments encouraging the youth to engage in the sector.
Such initiatives will help make farming sustainable, enabling the continent to feed its population, including the extra two billion people Africa is expected to add by 2050. This will require some sacrifices, forging of partnerships between the public and private sector, as well as promoting modern farming methods.