Farmers in Kenya and other African countries have been advised to focus on†growing food crops rather than cash crops to boost their income and feed a hungry world.
Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said so while addressing hundreds of delegates from around the world during the 34th†Governing Council of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in Rome, Italy,
Annan explained that†the market within Africa for staple food crops is estimated at Sh10 trillion (US$150 billion) a year, equating it to untapped goldmine.
“This figure far exceeds the revenue Africa receives for internationally traded cash crops like coffee, cocoa, tea, and cut-flowers. Food – primarily for domestic consumption – must be our focus,” he said.
Most parts of Kenya’s high-potential agricultural zones are under cash crops for exports and bring in billions of shillings of foreign exchange each year.
Annan, who is the Chairman of the Alliance of Green Revolution in Africa, said the time has come for the continent to feed itself adding that†nearly 240 million people in sub-Saharan Africa do not eat well enough for their health and wellbeing.
“Small-holder farmers are the mainstay of African agriculture. They have to be right at the heart of Africa’s green revolution. We need to ensure small-holder farmers are well organised and given the knowledge and support to play their full part in the transformation of food production,” he advised†† † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † † †
Kenya’s Minister for Agriculture Dr. Sally Kosgey told delegates†that for rural youth to be attracted to agriculture to boost food security they must see that it is profitable.
“To attract the youth, agriculture must be transformed from merely subsistence†to commercial farming where†farmers undertake agriculture as business that earns them enough income to prosper,” she said.
IFAD President Kanayo Nwanze†said rural areas must be transformed into vibrant economies where young people see a future for themselves.
“The key†is to enable smallholder farmers and other poor rural people to have a significantly better standard of living than they do today. They will then be able to spend and invest in their own livelihood opportunities and in the local economy,” he said
UN messenger for Peace for hunger and poverty†Princess Haya Al-Hussein warned that governments across the country face risks of food riots if agriculture does not receive priority attention.
“Hunger and malnutrition remain the biggest single threat to public health worldwide, more than heart disease, cancer or any other malady. Nearly every country on earth faces some degree of food insecurity,” she said.
This year’s Governing Council meeting of IFAD was conducted under the theme: “Feeding future generations: young rural people today – prosperous, productive farmers tomorrow.”
Kenya stands to benefit from a Sh400 million project to boost agricultural productivity and cut rural poverty under IFAD†coordination. It will be a partnership between the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), commercial banks, Kenya government and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)