Tuesday, 5 November 2013

EU pledges more support for agriculture

1383685760TimThe European Union has said it will increase its funding for innovative projects aimed at boosting the agriculture sector on the African continent.

Funds will also be channeled to infrastructural developments such as upgrading of rural feeder roads, ICT infrastructural projects and commercialised agricultural inputs.

Michael Ryan, head of the European Union Delegation to Rwanda, said that EU will step up its support for Rwanda’s strategy for sustainable economic   growth through the European Development Fund.

“The European Union has for a long time been a great partner and a friend to Rwanda, we have invested a lot and will continue to invest a lot in the country on its journey towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals,” Ryan said at the ICT for Agriculture Summit in Kigali yesterday.

He said investing in ICT for agriculture is not only an opportunity for policy makers to have a direct link with rural famers but also an opportunity for rural famers to have direct links to markets and commodity prices for sustainable agriculture.

The EU’s agenda for change initiative prioritises agriculture and food security in EU development financing.  The bloc has identified sustainable agriculture and agribusiness as key sectors to be funded in many African countries.

Around 1 billion Euros per annum was invested in agriculture during the period 2008 to 2013.

Africa will continue to benefit from considerable EU support for the period 2014 to 2020, the envoy said.

Agnes Kalibata, Rwanda’s Minster for Agriculture, said that farmers must take the advantage of the increased mobile penetration to exploit the opportunities within the agricultural sector.

Rwanda’s mobile phone penetration increased from 5 per cent in 2007 to about 65 per cent in 2013.

“We need to take this advantage and help our farmers in areas of agro inputs, certification of services, and the general transformation of rural livelihoods for our people,” she said.

Kalibata called for a gender balanced approach while offering incentives to ICTs projects.

“Most incentives and investments tend to ignore women and yet they are the biggest stake holders in the agriculture sector, how we involve them will make a difference for the future of agriculture on our continent,” she said.

About 80 per cent of those who produce, process and market Africa’s food are women, and their efforts are often constrained by limited access to productive decisions, she said.

The minister called for investments in innovation especially among the youth, so as to streamline the agricultural sector.

However, Michael Hailu, the Director for Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CAT), blamed the African youth for shunning agriculture which has resulted into low productivity.

“Africa is spending about $50 billion importing food, because the youth have shunned agriculture, leaving it at the mercy of the elderly. There is no reason why Africa should be spending on food importations, suffer from high youth of unemployment and high levels malnutrition given the vast potentials the continent has.”

According to Hailu, agriculture on the African continent employs 65 per cent labour force, contributes 62 per cent of the continent’s gross domestic product, and produces 80 per cent of food consumed.

“Low productivity resulting from limited innovativeness, especially among the youth is the reason the continent is lagging behind,” Hailu noted.

Hailu hailed Rwanda’s commitment towards ICT in agriculture like use of e-esoko, m-farm which tracks distribution of fertisers and called upon the rest of Africa to reciprocate the experience.

David Mills, Director Weather Safe, said that Africa stands an opportunity to beat the rest of the world because that’s where its comparative advantage lies.

According to the Africa Human Development Report 2012 (United Nations Development Programme [UNDP], 2012), more than 75 per cent of cereals and almost all root crops come from domestic agriculture.

Farm incomes continue to be crucial to the survival of the 70 per cent of the extremely poor population living in rural areas. This is because rural non-farm activity (accounting for 30 per cent – 40 per cent of earnings) tends to prosper when farm incomes are rising.

EU pledges more support for agriculture


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