Africa can feed itself, says Kibaki

Nairobi- Kenya (PANA) -- Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki has declared that Africa ha s the potential to produce enough food to feed its estimated population of over 900 million people and have surplus for export, according to the Presidential Press Service (PPS).
The President said, however, that the continent must transform its agricultural practices.
He said substantial resources were required to achieve the transformation of the agricultural sector in Africa and called for concerted efforts among member countries to raise the resources.
Kibaki, who was addressing the 13th Ordinary Session of the African Union Heads of State and Government in Sirte, Libya said it was unfortunate that majority of the food insecure people in the world live in Africa and that more than 45 pe rcent of the African people cannot afford two meals a day.
He said in order to eradicate poverty and food insecurity, the continent must tr ansform the current subsistence method of farming to commercial farming where farmers undertake agriculture as business that earns th em enough income to prosper.
"Apart from its economic importance, agriculture is the source of food.
A large proportion of our people is poor and does not have adequate purchasing power.
Furthermore most of our people believe that they have to produce what they consume," the President said.
Kibaki observed that it was hard to achieve high economic growth rates for Afric an countries while a majority of their citizens were food insecure and lived in abject poverty, adding: "I am convinced that for our economies to grow fast enough to get our people out of poverty and food insecuri t y, we must invest more in agriculture.
" The Kenyan leader challenged African governments to move a step further apart fr om upholding the Maputo declaration of allocating 10 percent of their annual nat i onal budget to agriculture, but also to increase the budget to not less than 13 percent by 2 012.
"I have arrived at the figure of 13 percent from current examples and, because t his is what we were spending in 1960s and 1970s when our economies were growing b y over 10 percent and we were almost food secure," he said.
Noting that the timing of the Summit was appropriate considering the eminence of economic development and food insecurity on the continent, the President said it was unfortunate that despite Africa's inadequate foreign e xchange, the continent is still a net food importer.
Kibaki said the role of agriculture in most African countries, apart from those with ample mineral resources, cannot be overemphasized, adding that when agriculture grows faster economies grow even faster, and when a griculture declines economies equally decline.
"The sector contributes over 25 percent of the GDP; it is the main source of emp loyment especially for the rural population; and it is also the main source of foreign exchange.
It is for this reason that economic gr owth of our countries has very close relationship with agricultural growth," he said.
During the forum, Kibaki highlighted five key areas that African countries need to focus on in order to achieve agricultural transformation.
He urged governments to ensure that all agricultural inputs are available and af fordable to farmers including some level of subsidy; ensure farmers access affordable credit as well as the change of credit laws in favour of farming enterprises.
Another principle that Kibaki advocated for was investment in irrigated agricult ure to reduce over-reliance on rains and also mitigate the vagaries of weather.
He urged each country to commit to achieving more than 50 percent of its irrigat ion potential by 2020, citing the Kenyan example where the country has set a target of expanding irrigated land from the current 150,000 he ctares to at least 1 million hectares by 2020.
President Kibaki called on all nations to strengthen and maintain their agricult ural institutions for quality extension services, research and innovations.
"In doing so we should move our farming enterprises from producers of primary ra w material to producers of value added products ready for consumption," the President said.

03 july 2009 13:28:00

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