Successes in African Agriculture

Building for the Future
Dec 1, 2003 - 05:00 am UTC to Dec 3, 2003 - 05:00 pm UTC

Pretoria Statement on the Future of African Agriculture


Significant poverty reduction will not be possible in Africa without rapid agricultural growth. Only improved agricultural productivity can simultaneously improve welfare among the two-thirds of all Africans who work primarily in agriculture as well as the urban poor, who spend over 60% of their budget on food staples.

Regrettably, past performance has proven inadequate. Africa remains the only region of the developing world where per capita agricultural production has fallen over the past forty years. To stem deepening poverty, social inequity and political instability, African farmers, governments, international partners and the private sector must all do better in the future. Recognizing this imperative, African Heads of State and Government agreed, at the African Union Summit in July 2003, to make agriculture a top priority and to raise budget allocations for agriculture to a minimum of 10% of total public spending within five years.

Africa's sluggish aggregate performance, however, masks a rich historical record of substantial agricultural successes. Though these episodic and scattered booms have proven insufficient to sustain aggregate per capita growth in agriculture, they do prove informative in pointing to promising areas for effective intervention in the future. In a rapidly changing global environment -- with increasingly concentrated market power and rapidly changing biological, information and communication technologies -- and given increased pressures on the natural resource base, public budgets and the growing threat of HIV/AIDS, governments and their private sector partners must learn to apply the lessons from these past successes.

Evidence from a series of successful episodes in African agriculture suggests two fundamental prerequisites for sustained agricultural growth as well as a number of promising specific opportunities:

Fundamental pre-requisites

Good governance. High-level political commitment has consistently proven essential to improving the welfare of farm households. It translates directly into favorable policy environments and budget allocations to agricultural support institutions and related infrastructure. Effective farmer organizations remain central to improving the communication and articulation of farm sector needs to government. Both farmers' organizations and governments must take responsibility for initiating overtures and organizational forms to make this possible. We call upon governments to work closely with the private sector, civil society and farmers' organizations in the allocation of increased public funding to agriculture. In consultation with the private sector, governments should create and facilitate an enabling environment for the private sector to perform.
Sustained funding for agricultural research and extension. Raising productivity remains central to boosting farm output and lowering consumer food prices. Virtually all of the successes we have identified involve some form of improved technology: biological, agronomic, mechanical or organizational.
Therefore, governments must elevate funding for agricultural research and extension. Furthermore, it is important that farmers' innovations be mainstreamed into the research agenda. Governments, together with donors, must ensure the training of staff capable of mastering new biological research technologies. Given the growing role of private research in biotechnology and hybrid breeding, governments must develop partnerships and protocols for making new technologies developed in the private sector available to smallholder farmers.
Promising opportunities

Soil and water conservation. We have been impressed with the number and range of innovative efforts by farmers and researchers to sustain soil fertility and water resources in response to increasingly degraded natural environments. Therefore, further testing of these models across national borders merits additional examination and support with the aim of refining and scaling up successes in restoring and sustaining soil fertility. This will require interaction among formal researchers, farmers and their supporting institutions.
Replication of proven commodity-specific breeding and processing successes. We are impressed with the importance of upscaling cassava breeding and processing research to meet food security, livestock feed and industrial uses. Strong complementarities across regions suggest regional cooperation and sharing of biological and mechanical technologies will magnify returns. Tissue-culture bananas and Nerica rice offer further examples of commodity-specific replication potential. NEPAD and leading centers of technology development should take the lead in initiating this exchange.
Marketing and information systems. Mechanisms for aggregating and improving the quality of the products of smallholder farmers and providing relevant and timely market information will enhance market efficiency. This will prove necessary in enabling them to compete in increasingly concentrated domestic, regional and global markets. A variety of models exist - contract farming among cotton and horticulture producers, dairy marketing groups and others - for grouping small farmers into economically viable market entities.
Vertical supply chains. To improve efficiency, raise value-added in production and processing, and ensure improved coordination between producers and final markets will require increasing attention to supply chain management rather than an exclusively production orientation. Successes in cotton, horticulture, dairy and maize all reveal the importance of vertical farmer-to-market coordination.
Regional cooperation in trade and agricultural technology. Regional trade offers significant potential for moderating food insecurity through cross-border exchange. Harmonization of trade regulations on a regional basis will prove necessary to facilitate these commodity flows. In research as well, countries along common agro ecological zones mean that regional technology and information exchange offer significant opportunities for sharing research and development overheads, expanding benefits and reducing costs. This cross-border technology exchange has proven vitally important in the cases of cassava, maize and natural resource management technologies. For this exchange, capacity-building is necessary. NEPAD and the regional economic organizations remain uniquely suited to facilitate such exchange.
We believe that with renewed commitment to building partnerships between governments, farmers' organizations, international partners and the private sector, significant gains are achievable in African agriculture. And achieve them we must, to ensure significant economic growth and poverty reduction in the decades ahead. We call upon the organizers of this conference and all participants to play their rightful role to ensure the realization of these recommendations.

Participants of the International Conference on Successes in African Agriculture
December 01-03, 2003
Pretoria, South Africa