Wednesday, 8 September 2010

The African Green Revolution forum

4th September 2010. The African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) ended on September 4, 2010, with concrete resolutions to transform African agriculture and tackle issues of food security. Closing the forum in Accra, Ghana, AGRF Chair, Kofi Annan, praised efforts by public and private institutions, development organisations, donors and farmers to accelerate the African green revolution.

This week I saw something I have never seen before. The bankers for Africa were in attendance. The CEOs of Africa were in attendance. And they stayed for three days! This is something you never hear of on this continent. Friends said this is the first time they have ever seen such a group of top bankers and CEOs at an agricultural event. This is excellent news. We are finally getting the message across. Agriculture pays. Agriculture is a business. And we are ready to run it as one, for millions of smallholder farmer. I saw African scientists this week who are at the forefront of developing Africa’s own solutions to unlock agricultural productivity. I saw our women – from farmers to scientists, policy makers to owners of agri business – rallying behind the movement. This is encouraging for only they know, better than anyone, that the green revolution is first and foremost about them. Africa’s women will lead the change. I saw civil society organizations that are critical to the movement step up with renewed commitment. I was particularly delighted to see the cream of Africa’s parliamentarians join us. They carried a unique message. “We represent our constituencies, the majority of whom are farmers.” They pledged to step up to the plate and make sure the green revolution happen, to transform their people’s lives. Of course we had African political figures come out in force. The Prime Minister from Tanzania. The Vice President of Ghana. And the indefatigable presence of the former President of Nigeria, His Excellency Obasanjo. These gracious, impassioned leaders threw their political weight behind this shining moment of transformation for Africa. So you can feel my heart beat, for I know that we have arrived at the tipping point. We have converted words to action. We have launched ourselves on a trajectory toward taking the green revolution to scale.

A lack of adequate infrastructure, particularly access roads, has been identified by African farmers as one of the major obstacles hindering them from getting their crops to markets. They said that the high cost of transporting their produce to market made them reluctant to even consider increasing the size of their farming operations.

Lydia Sasu, leader of the Farmers Organisation Network in Ghana and second vice president of the Réseau des Organisations Paysannes et de Producteurs de l'Afrique de l'Ouest, (ROPPA), said

Africans will be able to feed themselves if they can all work together and collaborate in the production of a range of crops. She cited the example of Ghana where not only rice, but a number of other crops such as yam, cocoa, plantain and cassava are also widely enjoyed.

"If we continue to propagate all those crops and put more innovation into them as researchers have been showing us, we can produce more, eat more but not only one crop. We can also diversify; in Ghana we have many - maize and others," she said.

Sasu also insisted that the voices of rural women need to be heard at all levels. She noted that women are the ones who normally keep whatever it is that requires keeping. Women are able to nurture so that even if something has been destroyed, they are able to bring it back to life. There is therefore, a need to collaborate with rural women to enable them learn more about agricultural methods which they can improve on and reach a level where new techniques can be applied and play a role in the green revolution.

Sasu appealed to women to put their house in order by coming together and taking part whenever there is something to discuss about agriculture, "because it concerns us more than any other thing in the community, we need to be involved. It is only when we know what is going on that we can be part of it".

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