Increase agricultural investment to curb poverty, vulnerability in Africa — expert
Dr Abdoulaye Zonon, the Coordinator, ECOWAS Community Development programme, said an increased agricultural investment was key to solving poverty and vulnerability challenges on the continent.
Zonon spoke at a Pre-Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development High-Level Dialogue (Pre-COM 2023 Dialogue) which was held virtually.
It was reported that the webinar was organised by the Economic Commission for Africa Sub-region for West Africa (ECA/SRO-WA) to deliberate on Africa’s challenges and opportunities.
The coordinator said: “for me, if we want to find quick wins in poverty and vulnerability, the key will be to develop agriculture.
“If we multiply agricultural productivity by two, we can reduce poverty by 20 to 25 per cent. And so, who are the farmers on the continent?”
According to Zonon, most farms on the continent are family and smallholder farms, with very low productivity or low yield of about 1.5 tonnes per hectare, whereas the others are producing way more.
He said that only about 10 kilos per hectare of fertilizer were being used on the continent, whereas, in the global average, its about 125, which he said was a major disparity.
Zonon said that the community had the declaration where countries committed to investing 10 per cent of their national budget on agriculture.
“We also have the Abuja Declaration on fertilizer, where member states said they will move up to 50 kilos per hectare by 2015.
“Whereas the countries are still at an average of about 10 kilos per hectare. Therefore, these are the people that we need to help.
“Unfortunately, the vulnerability affects them heavily because they are in an economic activity where climate has an impact, we have plants and animals dying, and there is the risk of conflict,” he said.
According to Zonon, we do not have social nets to protect them; therefore, we need a serious solid agricultural policy, we are not investing enough in agriculture.
On finance, the official said that different studies had shown that only three per cent of bank loans were accorded to agriculture.
He said that agriculture contributed 20 to 45 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in most countries, saying that a lot needs to be done to transform agriculture.
Zonon, however, expressed the need to come up with a policy to correct the situation, regretting that currently, the agricultural policy has not yet given the expected results in spite of the many initiatives.
“But beyond agriculture, we also need to develop social net and social protection mechanisms to ensure that we have human beings at the heart of these policies,” he said.
Meanwhile, Miss Rachelle Djangone, the Country Representative, UN Women in Niger, said that the poverty rate among women, which was two per cent before COVID-19, had increased beyond five per cent.
Djangone said a conscious effort should be made to transform our economy sustainably and reduce poverty, especially among women and children.
“We need to invest more in education, health and decent work, and this will be able to translate into economic and demographic dividends.
“We need to create employment and investment opportunities to the poorest communities, ensure access to bank loans and promote climate-smart agriculture, among others to transform our economy,” she said