African agricultural experts are concerned that the growing population presents a major challenge in efforts to adequately feed the people on the continent.
This was highlighted during an ongoing meeting in Kigali of farmers, agro-researchers and other stakeholders from the region to take stock of agricultural development efforts in Central Africa’s bread basket and chart a path towards food security.
Participants called for doubling of food production to meet the expected population demand.
Experts maintain that high population growth explains why the relatively strong economic performance in sub-Saharan Africa since 1990, has failed to deliver the desired progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
It is estimated that the continent now has around 1.02 billion people with approximately 950 million living in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Projections indicate that going by the current rate, the population may rise to 1.8 billion by 2050.
The specialists believe that unless African countries apply various mechanisms like agricultural intensification to double food production, the continent will continue to suffer from food shortages.
“Agriculture in Africa is faced with immense challenges of how to increase yields to feed a growing population in the face of climate change,” noted Prof. Shem Martin Ndabikunze, the Director General of Rwanda Agricultural Board.
The four day forum is organised by Consortium for Improving Agricultural-based Livelihoods in Africa (CIALCA) in collaboration with RAB.
The theme of the forum is “Challenges and opportunities for Agricultural intensification of the humid highland systems of sub-Saharan Africa.”
Prof Ndabikunze noted that the government had, since 2007, initiated a crop intensification programme (CIP) to increase productivity noting that it had paid off by making the country the most food secure in the region.
“In the first year of the programme, 125,000 ha were consolidated. Today, 503,000 hectares or 63 percent of Rwandan’s arable land is consolidated and the programme ensures that every farm, however small, has free access to improved seeds and subsidised fertilisers,” he said.
He also attributed the country’s food security to the increased public investment in the agricultural sector to 10.1 percent, slightly above the Maputo Declaration requirement. He added that this is expected to rise up to 12 percent by the end of the year.
During the Maputo Declaration of 2003, African leaders committed themselves to allocate 10 percent of their national budgets to the agricultural sector to ensure food security.
Dr Nteranya Sanginga, the Director General, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), observed that arable land is decreasing in the region adding that there was need for intensive research and technological innovations in the agricultural sector to amplify food productivity to fight hunger.
In an interview with the New Times, the president of Millennium Institute, USA, Dr Hans R Herren, said that for food production to increase in Africa, technological innovation and soil sustainability must be prioritised.
“We need technologies; innovations that will enhance productivity, and we have to make sure that no good soils are taken away because of buildings. Africa can feed itself,” he said.
Recently, an Action Aid report ranked Rwanda third out of 28 developing countries most prepared to confront the three interlocking global challenges of climate change, resource scarcity and rising and volatile food prices.