Thursday, 17 July 2008

International meeting on African Green Revolution

01-02/07. Nairobi. Representatives from 15 African countries, as well as others from Europe, the United States and Asia, participated in a two-day meeting convened by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

The meeting addressed policies in four critical areas: seed and fertilizer markets; finance and risk management; product markets, strategic grain reserves and regional trade; and land tenure and other social issues. It also discussed how to build the capacity of African policy analysts and institutions that will support evidence-based policy development.

Dr Praghu Pingali, head of agricultural policy and statistics at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said African governments do not have adequate data and statistics that can inform policy making on small-scale agriculture. Africa lacks the capacity to assess the impact of policies on agricultural productivity, food security, rural employment and rural income.

Participants recommended a range of possible policy responses, noting that one-size-fits-all policies will not work, and emphasising the need to recognise the diversity of African countries and agricultural systems. Among the recommendations were policies that:
  • Specifically and intentionally benefit small-scale farmers;
  • Support market development, including the rapid scaling-up of networks of rural input shops known as "agro-dealers," who are able to get seeds, fertilizers and other farm inputs to remote rural areas;
  • Increase farmers' and agro-dealers' access to affordable credit and loans;
  • Promote "smart" subsidies that enable poor smallholder farmers to access high quality seeds and fertilizers and other farm inputs;
  • Ensure that governments invest in public goods such as rural roads, irrigation, electricity, agricultural research and improved extension services;
  • Secure the land-tenure rights of small-holder farmers, especially women who generally have more limited rights to land ownership;
  • Stabilise food prices for farmers and consumers;
  • And risk-mitigation policies, such as weather-indexed crop insurance -- particularly important given projected negative impacts of climate change on African agriculture.

Participants also recommended that African countries and regions establish policy centres of excellence that would develop increased capacity in data collection, statistics and analysis, in close collaboration with African governments. Such centres would provide African countries with sound policy frameworks and build trust in policy formulation.