THE NEW TIMES by Eric KABEERA, 22. August 2013
Photo: Dr. Kalibata (L) and other officials examine bottles of banana juice during the conference in Kigali yesterday. The New Times/John Mbanda
African countries could face food shortages by 2050 due to a rapidly growing population, agricultural experts have warned.
“Hunger is widespread in Africa and the problem cannot be addressed unless there is partnership between governments and the private sector. This means there is a need to increase the level of education, ensure access to family planning methods and apply research in the agriculture sector,” [Dr Timothy D. Searchinger.]
He was yesterday addressing a meeting of scientists from several continents during a three-day conference on agricultural research and extension in Kigali.
It was organised under the theme; “Confronting challenges of food insecurity and poverty in the era of climate change and variability.”
To avoid food insecurity there is need for more research, education and increase of family planning services, participants said.
The experts called for public-private partnership in population control campaigns and strategies for food security.
Searchinger warned that unless African countries apply various mechanisms like agricultural intensification to double food production, the continent will continue to face food insecurity.
“Africa must primarily produce food for Africans not for export,” he said.
The Growing Africa: Unlocking the Potential of Agribusiness report released early this year shows that Africa holds almost 50 per cent of the world’s uncultivated land which is suited for growing food crops.
Africa’s harvests is said to routinely yield far less than its potential and, for food crops such as maize the yield gap is as wide as 60 to 80 per cent.
The report further indicates post-harvest losses run 15 to 20 per cent for cereals and are higher for perishable products due to poor storage and other farm infrastructure.
Speaking at the same conference, Dr Agnes Kalibata, the Agriculture minister cited inadequate private investments in agriculture among the challenges that need to be addressed.
She also called for more investments in agricultural technology to help enhance food security.
“What can we do to produce more by using less; it will be done by scientists. The productivity is still low and it’s worrying. However, we need to work closely with other partners, including the private sector, not to leave everything to the government,” [Dr Agnes Kalibata]
She stressed the need to link farmers to markets so as to avoid post-harvest losses.
Dr Gadi Gumisiriza, an expert in plant breeding from Uganda, noted that research and technology has been applied in crop husbandry with positive results and it is thus time to extend it to animal husbandry.
More countries need to invest in domestic animals like cows, goats and sheep and produce quality products for domestic consumption as well as exports, he suggested.
Martin Ngirimana, a farmer from Bugesera District who showcased food crops at the sideline of the conference, also noted that access to market was vital in farming business.
Government allocated Rwf164 billion, worth 10 per cent of the total 2013/2014 Budget, to agricultural sector.