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May 04, 2008

Land rights, political accountability are important to agricultural success

Former UN head Kofi Annan has called for a "green revolution" to solve the food crisis threatening Africa. "A genuinely African green revolution could lead to a doubling or tripling of food production," he said.

Africa needs direct, immediate help for farmers to stop food imports, including new seeds and fertilisers, he said.

But political analyst and South African beef farmer Moeletsi Mbeki said the heart of the crisis was property rights - as most farmers do not own land.

"The farmers in Africa have no secure property rights - their land doesn't belong to them it can be taken away from them just about any time," said Mr Mbeki, brother of South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki.

Mr Annan said he wanted to see Africa become responsible for its own food security, and to eventually end the continent's food imports. "If you help them [farmers] all along the value-chain, they are more likely, not only to improve production, but to sustain it," he said.

Mr Mbeki, who is deputy chairman of the South African Institute of International Affairs, said that this vision would only be feasible as long as land ownership and political accountability were addressed at the same time. He cited Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe's government has seized most of the country's commercial farms in the last eight years, as an example.

"We've seen the consequences of the farmer not having property rights in the destruction of agriculture in Zimbabwe," he said.

"Zimbabwe had a green revolution - for example their maize is hybrid maize, it wasn't just traditional seed they were using but the Mugabe regime took away the land."


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