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African regional bloc urged to help farmers get access to bank credit

ADDIS ABABA, (Xinhua) -- Regional institutions like the African Union (AU) must find ways to enable African farmers entrepreneurs to get access to credit from banks towards boosting agriculture and intra-Africa trade, said Fracesco Rampa, Program Manager of the European Center Development Policy Management (ECDPM).

Participation of farmers’ organizations is increasing in joint initiatives like the comprehensive Africa’s agriculture development program (CAADP), said Rampa to reporters revealing that the financial institutions in Africa like banks are missing as they still believe the agriculture sector is too risky.  A high-level panel on Wednesday convened discussion at AU Headquarters in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa in the context of the recently adopted by AU heads of states of Malabo declaration on accelerated agricultural growth and transformation in Africa.

The panel dwelt upon the main drivers or blockages to intra- Africa trade and also ways of meeting the target of tripling intra- Africa agricultural trade.

The multi-stakeholder dialogue deliberated on ways to boost intra-African agricultural trade through more effective continental and regional trade agreements and the promotion of inclusive regional value chain development, thus implementing the commitments and meeting the targets set by African Heads of State in the Declaration.

During their summit in Malabo, AU heads of states in June asked member states towards tripling intra-African agriculture trade by 2025, which is very ambitious target, recalled Rampa.

“And also heads of states in June asked private sector and public sector to work together to strengthen value chain in an inclusive way to benefit from the increased activities in agriculture,” he said.

“This is very ambitious target and today we started to address the how. So, once we all agreed that these are important targets that we make sure that everyone works in partnership to address those targets and make sure everyone is on board to achieve them,” said the Programme Manager.

AU member states look into the next 10 years to achieve the target of tripling the intra-Africa agricultural trade, which stands at 10 percent now.

Asked by reporters whether the target will be achieved, he said, “If everyone believes that CAADP is the unifying framework to achieve that targets, I think we can make it. If everyone starts to go in different directions it remains a chaos. But I think CAADP is an answer to try to make this.”

“They look it into the next 10 years. It is going to be a challenge because today intra-African agriculture trade stands more or less only 10 percent of the whole trade of African agricultural goods also compared to the rest of the world. So, we are quite far from enhancing that and tripling it. But, I think that CAADP has put in place the right public-private partnership approach to do it.”

In their deliberations, participants of the multi-stakeholder dialogue today underlined a couple of points including building trust between public and private, and implementation of the already signed protocols, according to the Programme Manager.

He stated that participation of farmers’ organizations increasing in the common initiative like the CAADP.

He also underlined the need to involve banks to make credit available to framers entrepreneurs.

“What is missing is the financial institutions; banks in Africa still believe agriculture is a bit too risky; very difficult for framers entrepreneurs to get access to credit. So, I think institutions like regional institutions AU must find way to involve banks,” said Rampa. 


Experts urge African farmers to seek loans for improved seed

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Africa’s soil experts have called on the continent’s smallholder farmers to get affordable loans to enable them purchase improved seeds and fertilizers to boost production.

Bashir Jama, Director of Soil Health Program with Alliance for Green Revolution for Africa’s (AGRA), said in Nairobi late Tuesday that crop yields increases when the soil health is improved with the support of fertilizers.

“Soil health alone cannot make farmers feed the population and earn their deserved profits from the activity,”said Jama, adding that the best approach is one that integrates organic and inorganic sources of nutrients.

Jama told governments and policy makers to support farmers in providing them with markets to sell their produce, and also avail them with reliable information to help change their way of operation given that Africa’s soil is largely degraded.

He called for the involvement of the private sector in smallholder farming, adding that though lowly graded, small scale farmers play a bigger role in the continent.

President of the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR) Isaac Bekalo observed that the increasing population in the continent requires good soil health to help boost food productivity. He said experts must start giving advice to farmers in innovative farming techniques that allow them earn profits in shorter periods.

“The policy on land ownership by women and the youth need to be put in place to enable them reap full benefits from farming given that they form the bulk of farmers in the continent,” Bekalo said.

He said governments must start giving farmers subsidies on seeds and farm implements as a way of boosting their moral in farming.

“We must borrow a leaf from Asia and Europe that had made a shift in their farming techniques and are today giving food aid to Africa,” he added.

Lindiwe Sibanda, Chief Executive of Food Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Network (FANRPAN), said that investing in soil health benefits the livelihoods of millions of poor and disadvantaged farmers, including women and young people. She called for intensified training and capacity building of farmers and agro-service providers.

Jama revealed that AGRA’s Soil Health Program that was started in 2008 has created physical and financial access to soil nutrients and fertilizers for about 4.1 million household farmers.

The program also aims to improve these farmers’ access to appropriate knowledge, agronomical practices, and technology packages on integrated soil fertility management, and also influence policy environments for investment in this technology.


African small scale farmers call for increased spending in agriculture

DAR ES SALAAM, (Xinhua) -- Small scale farmers from eastern and southern African countries on Friday urged governments in the region to increase public spending in agriculture.

Alfayo Kurunah, the chairman of the Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers’ Forum (ESAFF), said small scale farmers were the majority of African citizens.

“We are much more able than large-scale farming and agribusiness to contribute to the African economic growth, generation of food security and sustainability in agriculture,” he said in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam.

The forum brings together small scale farmers from Tanzania, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Madagascar, Seychelles, Mozambique, Swaziland, South Africa, Lesotho and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Kurunah said in 2011 Uganda invested 6 U.S. dollars per year with a 1.4 agricultural sector growth while Tanzania invested 18 U. S. dollars, achieving 4.1 agricultural sector growth.

He added that Rwanda, which invested 43 U.S. dollars per capita, had higher agricultural sector growth.

“This demonstrates that an increase in per capita public investment in agriculture contributes to increase in agricultural sector growth and thus lifting the lives of small scale farmers out of poverty,” said Kurunah.

He said governments in the region should at least invest 10 per cent of their national budgets to the agricultural sector.



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