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February 15, 2009

African agriculture ministers endorse green revolution efforts

African ministers meeting in the Namibian capital, Windhoek, last week to chart the way forward on sustainable food production on the continent adopted a Green Revolution to help boost agricultural productivity, food production and national food security.

The meeting was held under the theme "African Agriculture in the 21st Century: Meeting the Challenges, Making a Sustainable Green Revolution", and was attended by ministers of agriculture or related ministries from across the continent. The ministers agreed at to raise production levels of agriculture to provide enough food for the bulk of the continent’s population, which is wallowing in grinding poverty.

"We support the call for a uniquely African Green Revolution to help boost agricultural productivity, food production and national food security.

"We support the work of the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (Agra) in spearheading efforts to achieve a sustainable green revolution, working with African governments, farmers, donors, private sector and civil society," said the ministers in a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting.

They noted that the Green Revolution should be complemented by investment in rural areas, a preserve of the public sector. The ministers also said financial institutions in Africa and other funding agencies should be ready to fund food and agricultural input purchases.

"We are convinced that the challenges facing African agriculture need to be addressed with a sense of urgency...what is needed now is strong political will of governments to take the necessary actions and of the international community to support those actions," said the communiqué.

A target set under the Millennium Development Goals stipulates that African countries should attain food security and reduce by half the population of undernourished people by 2015.

"We recognise that agriculture plays a crucial role in addressing the needs of a growing global population and is inextricably linked to poverty eradication, especially in African countries where majority of the population depend on it for their livelihood."

The ministers also said that supporting integrated and sustainable agriculture and rural development was essential to achieve food security. To that end, governments should avail 10 percent of their national budgets to agriculture and rural development. It was also noted that limited export capacity by African economies, weak technological base, lack of modern storage and marketing infrastructure hampered African countries’ ability to compete on the global export market.

"Africa faces the daunting multiple challenges of feeding a rapidly growing population . . . yet we know the great power of agricultural innovation to transform livelihoods and lift rural African population out of poverty," said Namibia’s Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, John Mutorwa.

"As part of the global economy, Africa needs to get its share, hence a need for close co-operation between Africa and the rest of the world on issues of agricultural development."

Southern African Times

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