Home Business & TechEconomy Africa Food Systems Forum Gives A Formula for Small Holder Farmers to Feed the Continent

Africa Food Systems Forum Gives A Formula for Small Holder Farmers to Feed the Continent

by Jean de la Croix Tabaro
6:33 pm

Amath Pathé Sene

Rwanda is today launching the Africa Food Systems Forum (AFS)2024 where more than 300 agriculture stakeholders including, women, government leaders, philanthropists and development partners gather to kick start the journey that will lead to major events of the Forum due in September 2024.

The agenda of AFS Forum 2024 is to unleash the full potential of Africa’s millions of smallholder farmers and their families who earn their livelihoods from small-scale farms and produce about 80% of the food and agricultural products consumed across the continent.

The AFS Forum Managing Director Amath Pathé Sene has a great understanding of this challenge.

In an exclusive interview last week, Pathé Sene indicated that his organization is working within the continent objectives to make sure that smallholder farmers shift from subsistence agriculture to modern agriculture that can feed them but also make business for them.

You can be small but very effective. When you are small and artisanal, you make no change. It depends on how you organize farmers,” he said while sharing some best practices in Asia.

According to the Land Use Statistics and Indicators of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, with nearly 1.7 billion hectares in 2019, Asia was the region with the largest area of agricultural land, one-third of which was located in China.

This land is highly fragmented into pieces of land owned by small holder farmers, and according to AFS forum boss, when you go to Asia today, those bringing transformation are not big farmers, but small holder farmers, even though there are medium and big farmers.

Changes, he said, happened because of those small holder farmers.

The preoccupation of AFS today, is first to provide the farmers with capacity to be together and do what it takes to shift from traditional farming to modern, mechanized and productive agriculture to feed themselves, feed the local market and do exports.

The organization of these farmers should insure that they have a very inclusive system where they belong to bigger confederations, cooperatives and associations which enable proper resource mobilization.

Back on the continent, the land use consolidation program in Rwanda is an inspiration and good practice the continent can emulate.

The program was introduced in 2008 under Crop Intensification Programme (CIP), in which farmers located in the same farming areas may cultivate one selected crop while retaining ownership of their original smallholder lands.

Four years after initiation of the CIP and land use consolidation, the productivity of priority crops had increased considerably: wheat and maize production increased six-fold, cassava and white potato production tripled, and rice and beans production increased by 30%, according to report of Ministry of Agriculture.

The consolidation is important in the way of AFS.

When you want to bring, from a government perspective, some investment, it is very hard for example when you have less than one hectare to do irrigation on each of those ones,” said Pathé Sene.

Consolidation has been very successful in other countries of Africa, case of Morrocco. By 2000, they wanted to reach a million of irrigated hectares in the green Morrocco plan.

Consolidation is essential in the sens that it helps countries to scale up irrigation to face challenges of climate change and ensure effective agriculture and therefore, food security.

In terms of financing of small holder farmers, AFS boss finds agriculture insurance as a de-risking mechanism for the sector.

Rwanda’s Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente(L) and the chairperson of Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) Hailemariam Dessalegn at the launch event for the Africa Food Systems Annual Summit 2024, that is expected to be held in Kigali in September 2024

Consider for example one driving their car without insurance. The accident may happen or may not, but to prevent when it happens so that you can be paid back the damage at least you pay,” he said adding that agriculture is the same because it comes with weather instability.

In agriculture, a farmer may contract a bank loan, buy seeds and start planting, only to see the rain stop after one month. In that context, the whole investment is gone.

Who is going to pay you to restart when it rains again? So the best actors are insurance companies who should come at time you are contracting a loan or equity or any financing resource,” he further said.

The insurance companies will come in to revive the business, but the problem that raises AFS boss, is that in most of the times those instruments are either limited, or they are not unlocked in some markets.

In Rwanda, the National Agriculture Insurance Scheme (NAIS) was launched in 2019 with 40% subsidies from the government.

On continent level, some efforts are already helping the farmers to secure loans through the Africa risk capacity, an insurance institution that provides solution to government against agriculture risks.

Other initiatives come from World Food Progran(WFP), insurance and savings and financing altogether called AFO, while others are programs with African Development Bank (AfDB) in countries where insurance products are provided by cooperatives from farmers to help them minimize the risk and de-risk them.

Bringing the youth on board

To involve the youth in farming initiative, AFS is aware that in many countries, the age of 70% of the population is between 18 and 25.

The youth has another way of seeing life, they want things to happen quickly, yet agriculture has been always seen as a traditional kind of misery type of business. This is the paradigm shift we have to do and change the narrative,” said Pathé Sene.

If you want to bring the youth on board, you have to make agriculture sexy, cool, appealing, not something in which you will be under the sun the way your grandparents a hundred years ago, that would not work.”

AFS believes that in any kind of village, there can be added all facilities that appeal to the youth, to an extent that they could even be able to watch soccer game, champions league, basketball, from their home village.

We should transform a village into a place where people are happy also to stay, but transform it into a place of business. Agriculture will happen there,but conditions should be put together so that people are happy to stay,” AFS boss said.

For a successful agriculture, countries need to allocate fair budget, at least 10 per cent to the sector, which AFS is advocating for, to assure self sufficiency.

There are two things which you cannot prevent yourself from doing in one of two days; it’s eating. If you are not eating, it’s a problem. And also you need to find a place to sleep,” said Pathé Sene.

So the piece of eating is that important, and what you are eating might be coming from someone else country, if that person stops giving it to you, then you are in trouble even if you have money.”

That was the case in the aftermath of Covid-19 and the Ukrainian crisis, African countries have been struggling because grains come from those countries.

In any case, according to AFS Managing director, Africa is a land of opportunities. And for those who are seeing risk, the risk is everywhere.

Headquarted in Rwanda, AFS is world largest platform and forum. It brings all stakeholders around agriculture and food system together to help and support the continent transform its food system from the productive point of view.

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