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Africa needs truly People centred Green Revolution

Africa needs truly People centred Green Revolution

President Jakaya Kikwete has emerged as a strong advocate of transforming Africa’s farming and it is befitting therefore that other countries have appointed him to table the continent’s agriculture case at the G8 Summit of the world’s highly industrialised nations in Chicago, USA next May.

It was in the light of that honour that Tanzania last week played host to a crucial consultative meeting of agriculture ministers from seven African countries for recommendations to the African Economic Forum in Addis Ababa and the G8 Summit. Agricultural underproduction is endemic to the rest of Africa but at least seven nations, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique and Rwanda have indicated strong feelers for transforming their agriculture with private sector participation, the kind of language that currently repeals to donors.

But a common criticism about Africa’s development initiatives is that they sometimes get lost in too many meetings and overlapping institutional responsibilities, recommendations and declarations that lack synergies. For instance, the Salzburg Global Seminar, an American NGO that holds seminars on economics, politics, and other issues for future political, economic, and business leaders from around the world, held a high level conference in 2008 on Achieving a Uniquely African Green Revolution that was attended by 29 countries and more than 100 delegates.

Writing in the Preface to the report and recommendations of that conference, former United Nations Secretary General, Koffi Annan said: “It is time for Africa to produce its own food and attain self-sufficiency in food production. There is no reason why Africa cannot join the league of net-food exporting regions. Food insecurity should not be accepted as a normal state of affairs. The situation can and must be reversed. If ever there was a time for an African Green Revolution, it is now.”

Mr Kofi A. Annan, Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution for Africa (AGRA), an organisation funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. Its goals through 2020 include doubling the income of 20 million small farmers, reducing food insecurity by 50 percent in 20 countries and ensuring that at least 15 countries are on a path toward sustainable and climate-friendly green agriculture.

Their projects include development of disease-resistant strains of genetically engineered cassava said to be immune to cassava brown streak virus disease and the cassava common mosaic virus as well as PhD programmes at universities in Ghana and South Africa. Critics have often suggested “AGRA was planned without African voices, and imposes quick-fix technological solutions on complex and historically deep social issues.

Specifically, that it will impose a regime in which farmers lose power over their own seeds and are forced to buy them back from large corporations year after year.” So while Africa truly wants a Green Revolution, there is the danger being made dependent on foreign technologies and solutions, in effect colonizing the continent afresh through its own list of needs while seemingly being assisted by “friends” to solve its most pressing problem.

“Hunger in Africa results more from poverty than from actual food shortages; people will not be able to buy any additional food that gets produced without larger systemic changes,” critics further say. I tend to agree with them. The alternative, they say is food sovereignty or selfreliance, a path that Tanzania has argued all along. In the Salzburg conference above, delegates were tasked with answering the question: What are the core elements of a “uniquely African Green Revolution?”

The consensus was that unity, clear vision and concrete goals was the key to the future of agriculture in Africa. It transpired that a “one-size-fitsall” solution would not work on the continent. That conference also clearly stated: “ A new approach was required to a move away from the single “silver-bullet” concept, seeking a single “solution” that would fit every context, to a multi-hued “mosaic” approach that went beyond a production-growth focus to include issues of environment, biodiversity, equity and rights.”

That last aspect is crucial as Africa engages the private sector in agricultural revolution, where the biggest asset could be the land more than the seasonal peas and cereals, which if mishandled, could be a serious source of future conflicts instead of breaking the shell of poverty. That is the challenge for Africa’s farmers, scientists, development practitioners, private entrepreneurs and public officials.

It should also attract the interest of a supportive international community that genuinely seeks to spark a Green Revolution that takes onboard the continent’s political and cultural realities when the world moves into the future as a global village. Such is the magnanimity of the task that President Kikwete carries as he speaks for Africa not just over its present misery but dignified posture in the global civilization of nations throughout the ages.

One emerging concern is that a Green Revolution in Africa already threatens to marginalise the smallholder farmer and women, who for centuries have been the major food producers in Africa. It would be an insult to our mothers if the greatest change in the economic and political of this continent were to throw women on the flanks in preference for private sector participation. If the people won’t own the Green Revolution then it would be best for it to be thrown into the ocean.

FROM TABORA WITH LOVE: If it was possible, I would open a school for thieves

DEAR nephew Milambo Greetings from Dar es Salaam ...

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Author: Mboneko Munyaga

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