Agriculture is recognized as the surest means through which struggling economies can achieve sustainable inclusive growth that improves the livelihood of the citizenry. Nevertheless, its vast potentials to change the economic outlook of developing nations, agriculture is still being placed on the back burner on the African continent.
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Against this backdrop, the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Dr. Kanayo F. Nwanze, is encouraging stakeholders in the agriculture sector to see the need to go beyond mere production by adding market value to their products, in order to create jobs and numerous economic benefits.
Dr. Nwanze spoke at the offices of the Community for Hope Agriculture Project (CHAP), a local organization involved in empowering rural farmers to produce more rice through its “System of Rice Intensification” (SRI) project.
He said about 50% of IFAD’s investment in agriculture is allotted to Africa but that amount remains largely untouched because African governments are slow in taking the appropriate steps that set the stage for them to benefit from these investment packages. Dr. Nwanze is in Liberia on a three day visit to the Government of Liberia.
“It does not make sense of us to import rice or any other commodity that we can produce. But we have to go beyond production. We have to improve quality so that the products can be competitive; we have to have access to market- that means all along the value chain: from production to storage, value addition, packaging and also access to market information through the internet because you can trade through your mobile phone,” Dr. Nwanze added.
The IFAD boss pointed out that the role of the government in this regard is to provide the right policies and the infrastructures- roads, electricity and water as well as hospitals, indicating that government is not supposed to provide food.
“Our responsible is to go beyond just producing and making it a business; a viable productive business. As the Minister (Dr. Zinnah) said, agriculture has been the pathway for development for every country in the world: the Americas, Europe, China and the Caribbean,” the IFAD President noted.
He went on to say that it is not a rocket science to do what is right but Africans are lazy, they like imported things and we are not creative, even though they are blessed with resources.
“The youngest population in the world is in Africa. The largest area of land to be cultivated in terms of agriculture is in Africa. We have all the extractive industries. No other part of the world is as rich as Africa. So what is our problem? It can be done and you have shown it can be done. This is why IFAD is in the business of supporting African countries to improve agriculture,” he stressed.
For his part, Liberia’s Agriculture Minister, Dr. Moses Zinnah, said every other sector of the country collapsed, and there was a need for the government to enhance the agricultural industry on the visioning roadmap put in place.
He expressed optimism that the government of Liberia under the leadership of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf will do everything possible to ensure that the agriculture sector takes off before this regime tenure ends.
The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a specialized agency of the United Nations, was established as an international financial institution in 1977 as one of the major outcomes of the 1974 World Food Conference. The conference was organized in response to the food crises of the early 1970s that primarily affected the Sahelian countries of Africa.
It resolved that “an International Fund for Agricultural Development should be established immediately to finance agricultural development projects primarily for food production in the developing countries.” One of the most important insights emerging from the conference was that the causes of food insecurity and famine were not so much failures in food production but structural problems relating to poverty, and to the fact that the majority of the developing world’s poor populations were concentrated in rural areas. IFAD is dedicated to eradicating rural poverty in developing countries.