Friday, 29 August 2014

What is the future for small farms in Africa and the renewed role for farmer organizations?

Between the 3rd and the 5th of December 2013, Barefoot Education for Afrika Trust (BEAT) researcher and trustee Dr Mabel Munyuki-Hungwe participated in a Continental Briefing that ran under the theme "Envisioning the Future of African Agriculture and the renewed role of farmers' organization" in Yaoundé, Cameroun. The event was organized by the Pan-African Farmer’s Organisations (PAFO), the ACP-EU Technical Center for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), African Union Commission (AUC). The main objectives of the briefing  were to: 
  1. highlight the key opportunities and challenges for farmers organizations leading the agricultural agenda; 
  2. provide space for sharing experiences for an agricultural agenda driven by farmers organisations; and,
  3. facilitate networking amongst farmer organizations (FOs) and other partners. 

A Trader in Cameroon selling tea imported from Sudan

At the briefing Dr Mabel Munyuki-Hungwe presented a paper on “The future for small farms in Africa and the renewed role for farmers?” Well, apart from giving presentations at the high profile meeting, Mabel got some time for rich interaction with African women farmers and entrepreneurs in some of Africa’s most dynamic market places.
Mabel Hungwe of BEAT, (far left crouching) interacting with female farmers and entrepreneurs in Yaounde agricultural market
In her presentation at the Briefing, Dr Mabel Hungwe pointed out that though the majority of Africans, almost 388 million, still live in adverse poor conditions with 239 million under-nourished, the continent still poses as having one of the greatest potential to create that wealth for its citizens. She sited projections by the McKinsey Global Institute in 2010, estimating that Africa is able to increase its annual agricultural production output from $280 billion (in the late 2000’s) to $800 billion by 2030. She further promoted her optimism in African agriculture by applauding the progress that African leaders have initiated through accenting to the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CADDP).

She however did not cast a blind eye to the some of the challenges that the African smallholder farmers still face such as no or inadequate of access to inputs and input retailers, support services, credit and the knowledge they need to boost production. Smallholder farmers therefore are vulnerable to climate shocks (floods and droughts) or pests and disease outbreaks. Nonetheless, these are some of the recommendations she tabled for stakeholders present at the briefing as priorities to ensure a socially secure and economically viable future for African smallholder farmers:

  1. Human capital development – professional, managerial and technical skills necessary in the agricultural sector, gender issues cannot be ignored as they increase productivity at household level
  2. Sustained growth of biological capital (improved genetic and crop and animal husbandry) and physical investments in water issues such as dams, irrigation, infrastructure (roads)
  3. Improved performance of institutions (marketing, credit, research, extension and settlements) currently key agricultural institutions need institutional transformation 
  4. Favourable economic policy environment and political support for agriculture over long terms (real commitment implementation of CAADP) 
  5. New technology produced by private and public investments in agricultural research (with smallholder farmer in mind) 
  6. Land/agrarian reform – improved tenure security and wealth creating capacity than before (governments have to commit to ensuring that there is tenure security and that smallholder farmers do not lose out in land transfers)
  7. Food versus cash crop debate – case by case analysis of social, Political and economic dimension of cash cropping. Diversification vital (Knowledge that the promotion of high value commodities only works where food markets are functional and competitive). (Source: Rukuni et al, 2006).