A joint three-day Africa Forum organised by NEPAD’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU) has begun in Johannesburg South Africa. The forum aims to champion Family Farming and climate smart agriculture through exchange of ideas by those in the agriculture sector on the continent.
From discussions, so far, what is clear from the forum is that NEPAD, regional and national farmer’s organisations, as well as young farmers, want knowledge sharing and learning among farmers, experts and decision makers so that there is food abundance on the continent.
Delegates were of the view that this year’s Africa Forum was the best vehicle that would help to foster best farming practices across Africa for a country-driven development of agriculture.
In her opening remarks NEPAD programme director, Estherine Fotabong said farmers need to learn and share knowledge and experience about family farming plus what promising practices could be adopted in view of what climate smart agriculture calls.
She said this is why the forum is also part of commemorations of the 2014 African Union (AU) Year of Agriculture and Food, Nutrition and Security with a clear link to UN year of Family Farming. Fotabong explained that the forum is also meant to celebrate the existence of CAADP and the 10th anniversary of the Africa Forum which was established in 2004 in Kenya.
“We are not only looking at the role that farmers play in ensuring that there is food security and nutrition security, but also the role that you as farmers play in creating employment and management of natural resources,” said Fotabong.
She said this is why the forum is also part of commemorations of the 2014 African Union (AU) Year of Agriculture and Food, Nutrition and Security with a clear link to the UN Year of Family Farming.
Fotabong explained that the forum is also meant to celebrate the existence of CAADP and the 10th anniversary of the Africa Forum which was launched in 2004 in Kenya.
“As we have been reflecting on CAADP implementation, it has been very obvious that the role of African smallholder farmers, which we want to equate to African farming, is very critical in terms of Africa’s agricultural development,” said Fotabong.
On the other hand, President of the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU) Theo de Jager maintained that hunger and inequality could be dealt with if the continent has enough food so they are able to sell surplus food for their daily upkeep.
He said farmers could boost production if they collectively explore modern ways of farming and ensure use of market opportunities considering that the continent is blessed with water and plentiful land.
“Famers on the African continent are facing a challenge of climate change and we can list a number of scientific evidence as to how farmers face it. Therefore, we are key role players of what it needs to deal with climate change. In this case, it is good that we have more farmers who are young at this forum so that we don’t complain anymore,” he said.
Der Jager bemoaned that farmers are unable to exploit agricultural markets that are there within the region at the expense of the knowledge that is there due to lack of political will.
“We need politicians from different countries to understand each other so that there is no challenge on issues of export business. There is also need to mechanise the agricultural sector as was the case in the communication technology,” he said.
The Forum is also expected to give farmers and farmer organisations time to reflect and input into the Malabo Declaration proposed in Equatorial Guinea by farmers and organisations as an implementation strategy and roadmap before it is submitted to Heads of State and Government at the 2015 AU Summit.
Fotabong further explained that farmers are also key players of ensuring that the Malabo Decralation comes to fruition so that it is implemented by African leaders.
“And so as we reflect and we think as to how to implement Malabo, it is our view as NEPAD that farmers are central and critical players in the translation of the Malabo outcomes into concrete actions and results on the ground ,” said FOtabong.
During the opening session, Mr Phillip Kiriro, the President of Eastern Africa Farmers Federation, representing PAFO, said farmers want governments to introduce farming friendly policies aimed at making farming as business and advocate for climate smart agriculture.
He said it was also important that people discuss issues of agriculture in line with commercialization so that the sector is transformed.
Kiriro also called for the establishment of a commercial law in a bid to protect farmers cooperatives so that they acquire more opportunities in the supply chain within the continent to solve their challenges.
He said it was also important that people discuss issues of agriculture in line with commercialisation so that the sector is transformed besides having a commercial law to protect cooperatives so that they acquire more opportunities in the supply chain to solve their challenges.
“Infact, productivity levels are still worrying, to an extent where it is getting closer to a situation where our government think they would rather import producers, commercial people to do this because our productivity levels have gone down, but we know if you take for example in the Comesa region and other regions, the reason why we are failing is because of lack support to the sector. We need to organise ourselves,” said Kiriro.
He added that the issue of land is key to achieving climate smart agriculture, saying the kind of work we can achieve this is the availability of land which needs finances.
The Africa Forum through CAADP was established 10 years ago in Kenya for farmers and representatives, policy makers, manufacturers, traders, retailers, finances and development workers who work in or for African agriculture to share ideas.
The Africa Forum is part of the CAADP framework, and is coordinated by the five regional farmer organisations (RFOs) and Pan African Farmers Organisations together with the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency (NPCA).