The Minister of Food and Agriculture, Mr Fifi Kwetey, has called for a paradigm shift in the approach to agriculture in Africa to enable it to benefit from its potential.
“To realise this golden age of Africa’s agriculture which is a prerequisite for Africa’s Golden Economic Age, there must be a paradigm shift in the approach to agriculture,” he said, adding that, “The shift must not only be at the level of leadership but also at the level of the small farmer and the African population as a whole.”
Mr Kwetey, who made the call when he addressed an annual lecture under the auspices of the Centre For Values In Leadership in Nigeria on the topic – Food Security and Poverty Alleviation, said, “That shift must bring about the realisation that what we have all along viewed as massive problems are indeed seeds of opportunity.”
According to him, there was an opportunity for African governments to stop paying lip service to agriculture and start positioning the sector as the pivot of the continent’s transformation.
As a result, he called for greater budgetary commitments to the agric sector in the areas of support for research, mechanisation of equipment and facilities, support for infrastructure such as irrigation, roads, energy as well as support for establishing a sound and enabling financial system to boost the sector.
Mr Kwetey also called for support for institutions to ensure quality standards of inputs as well as output in line with best global practice; support in structuring domestic markets and opening foreign markets; determination to work with the private sector towards making the transition from unprocessed products to real value addition; and support towards ensuring that small-scale farmers make the transition from the old thinking that people involved in agriculture were to be perennial recipients of handouts from government and donors into the new thinking that the agric sector could be a thriving business space and must be approached from that perspective.
“In short, governments must provide the leadership. Governments have massive facilitative roles to play. But governments are not the driver behind the wheel,” he said.
The food and agric minister was of the view that the driver remained the private sector, adding that, “The private sector is essentially the small African farmer that has for centuries, risked his or her little resources in an effort to eke out an existence from the land and water bodies.”
Mr Kwetey also recognised the crucial role of the smallholder farmer and pointed out that the biggest shift must happen in the consciousness of the African farmer and by extension, the African individual.
“And once we can set that in motion, all other sectors of African life will go up the spiral of creative productivity and set the continent on the trail of golden transformation,” he said.
He said the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimated that as of 2010, nearly 870m people – that was one out of eight people on the globe – suffered from chronic undernourishment.
Mr Kwetey said although that account painted a rather gloomy and almost hopeless picture of poverty and hunger, the situation was far from hopeless.
To him, for Africa to reverse the trend and start the journey towards her golden destiny, it must soon turn to her game changer, which is, developing the agricultural sector without further delays.