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African nations must increase efforts to upgrade agriculture

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya on Monday kicked off the 6th African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) to chart new path to transform the continent’s agricultural sector and enhance food security.

A total of 1,500 agriculture experts, government leaders and high-level officials from over 40 countries are attending the five-day meeting in Nairobi, where they have promised to “seize the moment” and deliver hundreds of millions of dollars in new investments for African farmers and agricultural businesses.

Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett said the sector needs new transformation to lift the continent out of abject poverty and low investment.

“We have over the years witnessed attempts by various stakeholders to transform the agriculture sector but real growth is yet to be realized,” Bett told journalists in Nairobi.

“We need new excitement in the sector, especially enticing the youth who forms majority of the continent population and are quick in adopting and implementing new technology,” he added.

Bett said participants of the forum are expected to demonstrate new political will and commitments in order to upgrade the sector.

Heads of State from Rwanda and Ghana are expected to highlight detailed, nationwide agriculture development strategies covering multi-year spending plans, policy reforms and accountability scorecards.

The theme of this year’s forum is “Seize the Moment: Securing Africa’s Rise through Agricultural Transformation.”

Bett explained that a new approach is expected to transform the agriculture sector in order to boost the state of smallholder farmers who are majority in the sector.

“We believe Kenya is the appropriate venue for this historic gathering because farming and food production are the lifeblood of the Kenyan economy and we want to set an example that others can follow,” said Kenya’s Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Hon. Willy Bett.

“We are committed to pushing through the policy and financial reforms that can make farming and other agriculture businesses an economically and environmentally sustainable way of life,” he added.

Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) President Agnes Kalibata said the forum presents an opportunity for national governments, regional and global players, the private sector and non-state actors to advance policies, actions, partnership and to secure investments.

She added that it is expected to accelerate Heads of States commitments outlined in the national agricultural and food security investments plans (NAFSIP), the Malabo declaration and the AU Vision 2063.

Countries are also expected to increase budgetary allocation in the sector to 10 percent as stipulated in the AU Maputo declaration on agriculture and food security.

“The 2016 AGRF has been designed to showcase examples of transformation in agriculture in action, and to promote efforts to drive and achieve scale and to foster accelerated impact,” said Kalibata. 

She said the agriculture sector has witnessed input from private sector mainly in adoption and application of modern technology that needs further support from the government.

Kalibata said the sector is grappling with various challenges including grinding poverty, insecurity, a lack of technology, low budgetary allocation and poor market linkages. 

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and other African leaders are expected to attend the AGRF meeting.

This year’s AGRF will feature many other heroes of African agriculture who are committed to mobilizing the investments and partnerships that can “seize the moment” for making Africa’s agriculture potential a reality.

Strive Masiyiwa, Founder and Executive Chairman of Econet Wireless who also chairs AGRA’s Board, said while much has been accomplished over the last decade, Africa needs to work far more aggressively to tap the potential of agriculture and turn it into a powerful engine of economic growth.

“Just as we have seen in Africa’s telecom revolution, I believe the private sector can become a force for social change by transforming African agriculture,” he added.

“Business-focused investments in production, processing and marketing can ensure that the soaring demand for food products among Africa’s urban consumers delivers new economic opportunities for rural communities and African youth.”


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