Menesia Muinjo and Nalisha Kalideen
MAPUTO and JOHANNESBURG – Without agricultural development at the core of Africa’s progress, there will be no development on the continent.
This was the unanimous agreement from delegates at the Food Agriculture Natural Resources and Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) regional dialogue.
The dialogue, held during the first week of this month in Mozambique, brought together about 200 representatives from government ministries; the private sector; farmers and researchers from around southern Africa and the Caribbean.
Delegates urged their governments to continue investing in agricultural subsidies and in smallholder farmers. Agriculture is the most important source of livelihood throughout Africa, delegates agreed, accounting for more than 70 percent of total employment – of which 65 percent are women farmers.
FANRPAN dialogue participants acknowledged this important role women farmers in Africa played in agricultural production.
“Involving women in the development of agricultural policies which impact them is vital, as well as helping them access these realigned markets,” the outcomes document stated.
The document also noted that in the quest to develop agriculture across Africa, farm input subsidy programs had contributed greatly to achieving food security, in homes and across countries.
“It has contributed to economic and social development and poverty eradication,” the outcome document stated.
But there still remain gaps which require further research and dialogue. Participants expressed interest in further research on: understanding the contribution women and the youth made to agriculture; of the role of livestock and also called for further research on the benefits of biotechnology.
“It was wonderful because it opened my eyes, after listening to the testimonies – especially of the women farmers including Celina Cossa,” said Agnes Chalabesa, senior administrative assistant with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). Cossa, founder of a union of agricultural cooperatives based around Maputo, won FANRPAN’s civil society food production award for movers and shakers in agriculture.
Chalabesa said she was not a farmer herself, but the dialogue gave her hope because she heard other people from other professions other than farming having succeeded in food production.
The former chair of FANRPAN’s board, Dar es Salaam-based Haidari Amani, said: “Participants were extremely engaged in the discussions, no one was absent from the meetings. (We) were honoured by ministers from Mozambique and other African countries, a sign that senior leaders are very interested in the agricultural issues.”
“The major achievement is the fact that FANRPAN has spread its wings from Southern, Eastern, Central Africa and beyond the continent’s borders as we managed to bring over 20 delegates from the Caribbean and other parts of the world to come and share experiences on agricultural policy issues at the dialogue,” said FANRPAN’s chief executive officer Dr Lindiwe Majele Sibanda.
The Dialogue was attended by researchers, policy makers, representatives of farmers’ organisations and governments from as far away as Trinidad & Tobago and Sri Lanka.
She said FANRPAN has also demonstrated that the media can also be an effective too when it comes to the dissemination of information if equipped with information on agriculture and climate change as it has been seen through the writing of various articles at the dialogue.
FANRPAN’s Director of Communications and Policy Advocacy, Francis Hale said his organisation has reached the conference’s set goals because, among other things, it managed to bring together all the relevant partners, from government, private sector, donors, farmers, civil society, media and scientists as initially planned.
The next year’s dialogue will be held in Nambia during the first week of September.