Agriculture A Vital Role In Ensuring Food Security
Agriculture has vital role in ensuring Africa’s food security, says UN official
19 June 2008 – Despite the fact that African agriculture remains undercapitalized, inefficient and uncompetitive, it holds the key to ensuring food security on the continent, the head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today.
Addressing the 25th FAO Regional Conference for Africa, Director-General Jacques Diouf stated that with political will and good governance, Africa can boost its agricultural production and feed its population.
He told the gathering in Nairobi that the global surge in food prices, coupled with other factors such as climate change, the diversion of agricultural production for biofuels, rapid urbanization and population growth, and animal and plant diseases have worsened food insecurity in Africa.
At the same time, he called food insecurity a political issue, a matter of priorities in the midst of the most fundamental of human needs. The decisions made by governments determine the allocation of resources, he pointed out.
In 2003 African leaders committed to allocate at least 10 per cent of their budgets to agriculture and rural development. However, a report by the African Union indicates that only one in five countries have reached or exceeded that target.
Mr. Diouf pointed out that, in the last 30 years, agricultural imports have risen more rapidly than exports, with Africa becoming a net importer of agricultural commodities, 87 per cent of which were food products in 2005.
According to FAO, some of the major factors inhibiting agricultural development on the continent relate to the availability of water, arable land, fertilizers and seeds.
To address some of the negative impacts of soaring food prices and to boost food production, FAO launched an initiative last December to support low-income, food-deficit countries by helping farmers access the vital inputs they need.