Involvement of youths in farming will lead to food security, says Minister

The Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, has said that the Federal Government is set to mechanise agricultural production so as to make it attractive to Nigerian youths.

Onu stated involvement of youths in Agriculture will ensure food security, create jobs and increase foreign exchange earnings for the country considering their population.

He said that the deployment of Science, Technology and Innovation is vital to the development of agriculture in Nigeria. In his words: “Many aspects of farming is dependent on Science and Technology: from selection of seeds that are high yielding to drought and pest resistant seeds”.

Onu bemoaned the misfortune of post-harvest losses in the country’s agricultural sector, adding that the Ministry will support the sector by deploying relevant technology to ensure significant reduction in post-harvest losses and achieve food security.

He further said that agricultural products are essential to the development of pharmaceuticals, as products such as cassava provide starch which is a major ingredient for the production of medicinal drugs.   

Onu advised the Nigerian Young Farmers Network to continue working as a team so as to achieve the objectives of their association.

Earlier, the Director General and National Coordinator of Nigeria Young Farmers Network Mr. Promise Amahah, said the network was seeking a working relationship with the Ministry to positively reposition agriculture in the country.

He said the network is a melting pot for key stakeholders and investors in the agricultural sector.  

He further said that the network, which is represented all over the country, is striving to develop a reliable and dependable data platform for agriculture in the country.

He said the network which has over 2 million members spread across the country and is focused on driving and accelerating agricultural development in the country. Stressing that Nigerian youths could be gainfully employed by pursuing agricultural enterprises.     

Source: Sunnewsonline

Why we are making agriculture attractive to youths

The Federal government says it is set to mechanize agricultural production because the involvement of youths in the sector will ensure food security, create jobs, and increase foreign exchange earnings for the country. The Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu disclosed this when he received the Director-General and National Coordinator of Nigerian Young Farmers Network in his office on Tuesday in Abuja.

He said the targeted gains from youth involvement in agriculture will be possible considering their population, hence the move to make mechanized agriculture attractive to Nigerian youths.

He reiterated that the present administration placed a high premium on agriculture, adding that this was demonstrated by the massive attention given to rice production by Mr. President. He said that the deployment of Science, Technology, and Innovation is vital to the development of agriculture in Nigeria. His words: “Many aspects of farming is dependent on Science and Technology: from the selection of seeds that are high yielding to drought and pest resistant seeds”. The Minister, however, bemoaned the misfortune of post-harvest losses in the country’s agricultural sector, adding that the Ministry will support the sector by deploying relevant technology to ensure a significant reduction in post-harvest losses and achieve food security.

He further said that agricultural products are essential to the development of pharmaceuticals, as products such as cassava provide starch which is a major ingredient for the production of medicinal drugs. He advised the Nigerian Young Farmers Network to continue working as a team so as to achieve the objectives of their association. Earlier, the Director-General and National Coordinator of Nigeria Young Farmers Network Mr. Promise Amahah, said the network was seeking a working relationship with the Ministry to positively reposition agriculture in the country.

He described the network is a melting pot for key stakeholders and investors in the agricultural sector. He further said that the network, which is represented all over the country, is striving to develop a reliable and dependable data platform for agriculture in the country. He said the network which has over 2 million members spread across the country and is focused on driving and accelerating agricultural development in the country, stressing that those Nigerian youths could be gainfully employed by pursuing agricultural enterprises.

Source: Vanguard

Akwa Ibom woos farm investors

Corporate farm investors have been enjoined to partner with Akwa Ibom State government to boost food production in the state.

Mr Amos Udom, Senior Adviser to the Governor on Project Monitoring, made the call when he paid a visit to Mr Arnold Smith, the Chief Operating Officer of Pandagric Novum Ltd, in Karu Local Government Area of Nasarawa State.

Pandagric has keyed into the Federal Government’s vision of large-scale maize production to reduce forex pressure and food self-sufficiency.

According to him, since agriculture is a viable venture, the state is open for partnership with the farm in line with the government’s vision to boost food production in the state.

He stressed the need for them to take advantage of arable agricultural land, security and steady electricity supply provided by the state government.  

The chief executive encouraged the corporate farmers to provide such inputs as an improved variety of seeds/seedlings, provide farming implements, training, and re-training of local farmers, perfect existing off-takers’ arrangements, and provide agronomists for demonstration farms.

Udom tasked the local farmers to avail themselves of the opportunities to be offered training in best management practise in order to form themselves into cooperative societies and to refrain from subsistence farming to a large scale by embracing the modern agricultural techniques.     

Mr Arnold Smith, Chief Operating Officer, said they decided to venture into agriculture in a bid to uplift the continent of Africa from poverty and hunger.

Source: The Guardian

CBN applies moral suasion on banks to raise agriculture lending to 10%

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has persuaded commercial banks operating in the country to increase their lending rate to the agricultural sector from four percent to 10 percent over the next four years.

Godwin Emefiele, governor of the apex bank, made the appeal on behalf of stakeholders in the agriculture sector while speaking at the 13th Annual Banking and Finance Conference organized by the Chartered Institute of Bankers (CIBN) in Abuja.

Emefiele, who bemoaned the dwindling income generated from the oil sector, noted that for the country to attain economic sustainability, it has become imperative to increase investments in non-oil sectors like agriculture that can enhance the resilience of the Nigerian economy in the face of external shocks.

“Over the next four years, the banking sector should consider ways it could increase its loans to the agricultural sector from 4% to 10% by 2024. With declining foreign exchange earnings from crude oil, banks should consider supporting agro-processing companies that are export-oriented,” he said.

Emefiele disclosed that the CBN is working towards improving access to loans through the use of information communication technology (ICT).

According to him, improving the use of ICT as an enabler for growth will help make for easier loan recovery processes.

The CBN governor also disclosed plans to establish an infrastructure company (Infra-Corp) to be led by the apex bank in partnership with the Africa Finance Corporation and the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority. He explained that the facility will enable the central bank to improve key sectors of the Nigerian economy, which includes the agricultural sector.

Source: Business AM

Exploring opportunities in coconut industry

The global coconut industry is worth $ 6.3 billion, a reason the Lagos State government is making efforts to get more Nigerians into the business, DANIEL ESSIET reports.

With about two million coconut trees, the Lagos State  government says the industry is worth N10 billion. But the Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said the state has the potential of delivering over 10 million coconut trees with a yearly production of one billion husk nuts worth about N50 billion, adding that Lagos is the hub of coconut value chain, not only in Nigeria but also in the West African sub-region.

He made this known at the maiden edition of the International Coconut  Summit held at the Airport Hotel, Ikeja.

However, the government is not only positioning Lagos as a money spinner but also as a contributor to rural development, better market connectivity, and local agricultural value addition. It also aims to provide opportunities for low-income households who would participate in development.

The President, Federation of Agricultural Commodities Association of Nigeria (FACAN), Dr Victor Iyama, said there was the need for more states and entrepreneurs to join hands with Lagos to explore business opportunities in the coconut industry which he noted has the capacity to produce huge foreign exchange for the country. This is because the European market potential is huge with the commodity sold in many forms, fresh and processed for many uses in health food, cooking and cosmetic products.

Analysts said changing consumer health and wellness preferences have spurred a boom in global demand for products such as coconut water and oil.

Yet, many coconut farmers are not deriving a sustainable livelihood from the crop.

Inyama said FACAN was ready to partner the government and producers to get more Nigerians to invest in coconut production.

Hr said the association was working to help farmers and exporters connect to national, regional and international value chains. This would involve training entrepreneurs to enhance their capability to meet international standards, he added.

He said FACAN supporting farmers to diversify income streams across the value chain.

Meanwhile, the Lagos government is establishing a coconut processing factory in Badagry to further optimise the use of coconut and harness the economic potential in the value chain.

The state Acting Commissioner for Agriculture, Ms Abisola Olusanya, said the factory would be dedicated to processing coconut husk to coir, and coco peat, among others, under a Public-Private Partnership deal in the state’s 2021 Annual Work Plan and Budget.

She noted that these initiatives further reinforced the state’s position as the number one coconut producer in the country in addition to providing employment opportunities for the citizens.

She said the processing factory would also catalyse the industry, such that more people would come to the sub sector and create more business opportunities in the value chain, adding that Lagos is the largest coconut producing state in Nigeria, contributing over 70 per cent to national production.

Source: The Nation Online

Agrorite leading the fight against food insecurity using Agtech

The importance of smallholder farmers in society cannot be overstressed. Smallholder farmers put in so much work in order for us to eat quality and nutritious food, but at the end of the day have little or nothing to show. Smallholder farmers account for over 70% of the food produced in Africa, which emphasizes their relevance in fighting food insecurity in Africa.

Agrorite is a premiere digital agricultural platform that improves the livelihood of smallholder farmers by connecting them with Finance, Smart farming solutions, and Premium markets. Our mantra is to provide positive outcomes for farmers in order to tackle the challenge of food insecurity in Africa and our vision is to inspire the production of sustainable food for Africa.

Lack of access to quality, nutritious agricultural commodities by premium processing companies was another major gap we spotted in the sector, which we are tackling by enabling smallholder farmers to meet up with the growing demands by these processing companies. We have also opened agricultural participation for all through partnerships with Cooperate and Institutional Funders. Individuals are not left behind as they can sponsor farming activities via crowdfunding to earn decent profits.

Not only are we well received in Nigeria, but our service is also acknowledged in the investment and agricultural sector. Consequently, we seat on over 8200 farmers network that spans across Nigeria, cultivated on 5,830 hectares of farmland, and produce well over 86340 metrics tones of crop production for local consumption and export. Commodities such as Peanut, Sesame, Cashew, Shea Butter, etc are some of the commodities we trade on.

Innovation and Technology is an essential component of Agrorite. With our in house developed farm management system (Agrorite Bookie), farmers will now be better equipped to efficiently and smartly manage their farms, get real-time updates on crop performance, and make a projection on the farm inputs required to successfully deliver on the expected output by off-takers.

Our value addition, over the last year, has earned us award recognition from the Federal Republic of Nigeria, The UK Government, GIZ, and UAE. We are currently in partnership with AirBus, GoGlobal Africa, and most recently won the African Most Innovative Digital Agricultural Platform 2020 by the African Brands Award.

More so, aligning with our vision in fighting the global food crisis, we have identified the importance of agricultural product processing and storage hence our cause for embarking on setting up a processing plant that will enable ready food production in Nigeria which in turn creates decent job opportunities in the agricultural value chain. We believe Processing adds value to the Agric produce and creates room for commercial agriculture, thereby promoting agricultural activities.

Onboarding farmers and convincing them to do things in a modern and organized manner is usually challenging, hence, our constant training and workshops in measuring their Progress. Likewise, funding – which can help improve volumes of both production and trade. Through a partnership with government and other cooperate bodies we can achieve even more in closing these gaps, that’s why we are open to collaboration.

When partnering with Agrorite be best assured of a decent return on investment. Another interesting thing about Agrorite is our readily available off-takers both locally and internationally to buy off produce at harvest. The security of investment is guaranteed as we provide extensive insurance coverage on all our farms and commodity on transit. It will interest you to know that Investors are not left in the dark; they are carried along the investment or farming circle with regular updates on progress made and we are easily accessible through our 24/7 customer support service.

Our partnership with you will largely improve the livelihood of smallholder farmers as well as beat food insecurity in Nigeria and beyond.

Source: Nairmetrics

Funding options for agriculture in Nigeria expands with N50 bln scheme

The Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme (ACGSF) Amendment Act assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari increased the share capital of the fund from N3 billion to N50 billion. The new scheme is in line with Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN’s) move to increase lending to the agricultural sector and support increased food production. The fund provides a guarantee for bank loans for agriculture and boost lending to agriculture. Financing of production farm machinery, production equipment, processing, storage and transportation are now allowed under the amended ACGSF Act, writes COLLINS NWEZE.

Before now, farmers were the least that banks would consider for loans. Such loans, if approved, were deemed lost from the outset, especially when advanced to smallholder farmers.

Today, the story is different. Both the smallholder farmers and established ones can take a shot at bank loans. Also, lenders, which previously saw agricultural loans as high risk, are now seeing the potential of how much a well-priced credit can add to their balance sheets and profitability. The amendment of the Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme (ACGSF) Bill raised share capital of the fund from N3 billion to N50 billion, a step that allowed more farmers to access agricultural loans.

A breakdown of the ACGSF Amendment Act 2019 shows that the sharing ratio is Federal Ministry of Finance (60 per cent) and Central Bank of Nigeria (40 per cent). The maximum for a non-collaterised loan under the scheme is now N100,000.00, the maximum amount for collaterised loan granted to individuals, cooperative societies and corporate entities is now N50 million, up from N10 million.

Also, complete Agricultural Value Chain financing is now allowed as well as the financing of production farm machinery, production equipment, processing, storage and transportation.

This Act amends the ACGS Fund Act Cpa. A11, Laws of the Federation Nigeria 2004, to enhance capital base, expand coverage of the scheme, increase the size of the loanable fund, increase membership and give more powers to the board.

Further details of the ACGSF showed that the amended section 2 of the Principal Act enacted by the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, now requires that the Minister shall appoint a chairman, a representative of the Nigerian farmers, a representative of the Federal Ministry of Finance, and a representative of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture. The fund was increased from N100 million to N50 billion, which may be increased by such amount the Board may determine and that amount shall be contributed in a proportion as the board may prescribe. President Buhari signed and certified the ACGSF Bill into law.

CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele identified agriculture financing as the way forward for the economy. He explained that part of its developmental role, the CBN has in collaboration with the Federal Government established the ACGSF for promoting agricultural enterprises in Nigeria.

The fund, he added, will complement other special initiatives of the apex bank in providing concessionary funding for agriculture.

According to Emefiele, “there was no need to allocate scarce forex to rice importers when vast amounts of paddy rice of comparable quality produced by poor hard-working local farmers across the rice belts of Nigeria are wasted, and farmers are falling deeper into poverty at a time the government exports their jobs and income to rice-producing in overseas countries.

“A few decades ago, Nigeria was one of the world’s largest producers of palm oil but, today, we import nearly 600,000 metric tonnes while Indonesia and Malaysia combine to export over 90 per cent of global demand.

“Under these circumstances, I believe it is appropriate, and in fact, expected, that the CBN contributes to protecting the jobs and incomes of local farmers, using some of the same principles Western economies use to justify the protection of their farmers through huge subsidies.”

Noting that agriculture remained the largest employer of labour, the CBN chief said the sector contributes about 24.2 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Emefiele described as unacceptable that the greatest share of the demand for forex goes directly to importing agricultural produce.

He said: “So, the CBN has both a direct and indirect rationale to ensure that this sector is revived in a significant way. In this regard, we are gratified that the CBN’s Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), together with other initiatives like the CACS and Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), are proving to be successful in several states.”

He explained that in Kebbi State alone, over 78,000 smallholder farmers cultivate about 100,000 hectares of rice farms. It is expected that over one million metric tonnes of rice will be produced in that state alone this year.

Source: www.salaamgateway.com

In face of crisis, equitable farming systems grow in Nigeria

In northeast Nigeria, where agriculture forms the backbone of rural communities and livelihoods, the militant group Boko Haram has forced millions to flee their homes and take refuge in crowded settlements on the outskirts of the region’s largest cities and towns. They’re leaving behind not just their homes, but their ways of life.

In the region’s largest city, Maiduguri, an estimated 130,000 displaced people have settled into urban and peri-urban camps – part of more than 1.4 million displaced people living in camps throughout Borno State alone.

Many in the camps are farmers, cut off from their lands and communities and unsure of when they will be able to return home, get back to their fields and earn a living again. And a significant portion of these farmers are women, many of whom face obstacles because of their gender.

“We’re now trying to educate them, trying to explain to them that both women and men are equal in terms of whatever they are doing, so they shouldn’t be denigrated.”

Kachalla Kyari Mala

Amid these dire circumstances, a program is helping displaced Nigerian farmers create income opportunities and plan for the future by providing gender-responsive training, education about best agronomic practices, access to land and seed, and marketing opportunities.

“The idea is for them to have the knowledge, for them to know what they are doing when they go back to their homes, so that they will be self-reliant,” says program leader Kachalla Kyari Mala, a researcher at the Lake Chad Research Institute, part of the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria.

The institute initiated the training program in 2018 to assist displaced wheat farmers living in the camps. The project launched after Mala and his team received training in gender-responsive agriculture research methods starting in 2017 through the Gender-responsive Researchers Equipped for Agricultural Transformation (GREAT) project, a joint effort between Cornell’s Department of Global Development and Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda.

Read more at https://news.cornell.edu/

Sterling Bank to host Africa’s biggest digital agriculture summit

What comes to mind when you think of Agriculture? The produce, the farmers, investments, tech or the next level? The next level that will propel us into the much-needed transformation with the design and implementation of the right policies, scalable innovation alongside focused and sustained investment.

It is no news that the existing frameworks and age-long practices in Africa’s agriculture sector are outdated and need to be improved upon.

Transforming the continent’s agriculture sector into a powerhouse that will not only feed the continent’s growing population but will also boost the economy, create decent employment for millions of people and hopefully absorb the shocks from the Coronavirus pandemic.

Agriculture is one of the sectors Sterling Bank holds close to its HEART. As one of Nigeria’s foremost commercial banks renowned for its giant strides in Agriculture financing, Sterling Bank has over the years organised a yearly Agriculture summit to bring together industry players, actors and subject matter experts across the board to discuss pervasive issues ranging from poor market linkage, risks of natural disasters, cost of raising funds, absence of agricultural insurance amongst others.

The summit aims at providing insights on Africa’s agriculture with a view to charting a new course and unleashing the full potential of the sector.

These and so much more is what Sterling Bank aims to address during this year’s edition of Agriculture Summit Africa, ASA 2020 themed “FAST-FORWARD AGRICULTURE: EXPLOITING THE NEXT REVOLUTION”. This year’s edition promises to be different as it will be the first time of hosting the Summit digitally.

Some of the key areas that will be the core focus areas during this year’s summit will be on government policies, technology, agribusiness financing, scalable innovations and the impact of resource availability and climate change on the output.

This, in turn, will help more key stakeholders get more involved in developing policies to aid the growth of the agribusiness value chain across the public and private sectors, attract sizable investments to drive expansion and achieve global competitiveness. The role and impact of technology and data science in stimulating innovation in the value chain will also be discussed during the Summit.

The keynote speakers for this year’s summit are Dr. Akinwumi Adesina and Dr. Atta-Krah who will be speaking on the theme, the Deputy Program Director for Mercy Corps AgriFin, Sietika Gatabaki will be the lead speaker for ‘Role of Technology and Data in Agriculture’ which is one of the panels, while Tayo Aduloju of The Nigerian Economic Summit Group will be talking on ‘Public-Private Partnership’.

Join the Summit on the 23rd & 24th of September 2020 where live discussions will be held on a number of exciting topics that will help forge a path for the opportunities to be explored.

Visit http://agricsummit.org to register for this year’s digital Summit.

Source: The Guardian

Africa’s agricultural sector faces up to Covid-19 crisis

Along the tarmacked border separating Kenya and Tanzania, hundreds of trucks filled with perishable food sit in the heat. At the roadside, drivers lounge on cardboard mats in patches of shade for up to a week as swabs are sent to Nairobi for coronavirus testing. By the time drivers complete their journeys, much of their cargo is putrid, and with many planes grounded, Kenyans are seeing price hikes on supermarket shelves. 

That is just one of Africa’s 110 borders. The blockage offers a glimpse into the devastation the Covid-19 pandemic is beginning to wreak on the continent’s agricultural sector, which provides a livelihood to 60% of the continent’s workers. 

The virus and its lockdowns affect African farmers, agribusinesses and SMEs, as well as consumers and government departments involved in the sector, which together comprise 23% of continental GDP. In various countries, however, the picture was already less than rosy before the pandemic hit, with 650m people facing food insecurity. 

For the optimist, the question arises: could the coronavirus turmoil present an opportunity to reimagine food security and build resilience for the future? 

Ever adaptable, African farmers have begun to experiment with apps and new technologies. Meanwhile, policymakers and relief organisations are refocusing on food production and provision. Pioneering policymakers are prioritising food security and shifting to clean energy sources, such as hydroelectric and solar. 

Better harvests

When it comes to agriculture, “Covid-19 appears not to have caused, so far, as terrible a collapse as it might have done,” says Christopher Cramer, a professor at SOAS, University of London. “Some parts of East Africa, West Africa and very much of South Africa went into the pandemic on the back of harvests that were much better than in the past few years.” 

Strong agricultural output in many major growing regions followed years of drought. In South Africa, for instance, maize production in 2020 is expected to be more than 30% higher than in previous years. All across the continent, many planting seasons were drawing to a close when the pandemic escalated in March, sparing farmers from the coming price fluctuations in agricultural inputs. 

Experts are quick to point out that African food production and supply have risen steadily since the 1960s, despite doom and gloom predictions, particularly in countries such as Malawi, Ethiopia and Ghana. And yet the industry has struggled in Zimbabwe and grown sluggishly in the likes of Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire. 

Meanwhile, certain agricultural regions were already in trouble when pandemic fears locked them down, principally East Africa, which is facing floods and a locust infestation of proportions not seen in 70 years. In Zimbabwe and Mozambique, rainfall in late 2019 was uncharacteristically light, while conflict in Nigeria, South Sudan and the arid Sahel have compounded food insecurity. And with commodity prices falling earlier this year, growers of vital crops such as cocoa and coffee are edging towards disaster. 

Still, in many regions, the pre-existing agricultural tailwinds have been just enough to sustain agriculture sectors in the face of these challenges and the coronavirus. 

On 28 February, an Italian man who works in Nigeria became sub-Saharan Africa’s first official Covid-19 case. Since then, Africa as a whole has recorded more than 860,000 cases, while many more will go unreported. While numbers are mounting, this is not yet the devastating outbreak many feared. 

And yet an upsurge would lay bare the continent’s weak healthcare systems – Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, has just 450 ventilators for a population of 200m – and direct attention away from security challenges in conflict-prone areas. The prospect of a food crisis, however, has garnered less attention. And yet, Africa is a net food importer to the tune of around $47bn annually and is now facing border closures worldwide. 

Supply chain issues

“The first impact was on flower farmers in East Africa, who saw demand from European markets essentially collapse,” says François Conradie, senior political economist at NKC African Economics. “Supply chain issues have also been relevant as imported inputs have become harder to come by.” 

For smallholder farmers across the region, seeds, fertiliser, animal feed and crop protection instruments upon which they rely to maximise yields have become scarce, or substantially more expensive, hindering production of widely-consumed crops such as rice and maize, as well as Ethiopian coffee, Kenyan horticulture and Ghanaian pineapples. 

Many agricultural SMEs have been forced to downsize or fold as food has rotted on farms or in trucks, causing job losses, food insecurity and poverty. Meanwhile, lockdowns have sucked the life out of the informal sector, the primary source of employment in sub-Saharan Africa. 

According to World Bank data, 70% of Nigerian households have seen their income fall, with volatility highest in rural areas where farming usually pays the bills. 

Between late April and early June, Precision Agriculture for Development (PAD), a Boston-based non-profit, surveyed nearly 1,500 Kenyan farmers and agri-dealers. Eight in 10 agri-dealers reported a decrease in farmer footfall, and 76% reported lower sales compared to a month earlier. 

Farmers, meanwhile, said the price of inputs had risen, and 55% said they had been forced to borrow money in the preceding month to cover living expenses. That stops them making important investments for the next harvest. 

Long-term consequences

But the impact on farmers and pastoralists, who cannot move freely under lockdown rules, is only half the story. Export cuts – due to reduced global airfreight, collapsed demand from European, Asian and US markets and smaller agricultural outputs – could cause inflation, which in turn could depreciate African currencies. And most African nations have considerable external debt stocks, paid in US dollars. 

“Governments find themselves having to spend more to cope with the pandemic at the same time as these economic problems result in lower tax revenues, so they borrow more,” says Conradie. “In the long term this is going to crowd out productive investment spending and even some crucial spending on social safety nets.” 

The implication of a farming crisis is a long-term hit to already vulnerable African economies and less food for a continent whose population is set to double in the next 30 years. That is why governments and institutions across the continent must act now.

“States cannot rely easily on foreign investment or aid – they need to build resilient export sectors and to take a national role in promoting change,” says Professor Cramer. “Spending on public agricultural R&D needs to rise, investment in irrigation needs to rise.” 

The African Development Bank has launched the Feed Africa Response to Covid-19 (Farec), which has earmarked $10bn to support governments, smallholders and the private sector. Importantly, it emphasises sustainable growth in food production and distribution, and has already supported around two dozen countries, creating “green corridors” to move agricultural products and handing out loans. 

Meanwhile, agribusinesses themselves have pleaded with governments to encourage cargo flights, through tax incentives, fuel subsidies and landing charge waivers. In Kenya, international cargo flights have slowly picked up, albeit at twice the price per kilo compared to the start of the year. 

Digital solutions

Farmers, too, continue to employ novel solutions, many of them digital, to safeguard their agricultural incomes. PAD produces digital tools to advise farmers on what to plant and when, as well as what equipment to use to safeguard their crops. “Overall, 98% of agro-dealers reported communicating with suppliers via mobile phone, and 70% reported receiving messages from farmers about inputs at least once a day,” says Sam Strimling, a research associate at PAD. Meanwhile, a collaboration between the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation and Penn State University is allowing East African farmers to pinpoint locust swarm locations for pesticide spraying. 

“Financial challenges experienced and anticipated by farmers as a result of the pandemic were somewhat mitigated by optimism about forthcoming harvests,” says Emmanuel Bakirdjian, Africa regional manager at PAD, “with 52% of farmers expecting a more bountiful harvest than the previous year.” 

The depreciation of African currencies, while a challenge at a governmental level, could actually make life easier for farmers once freight picks up again, by making local currency incomes higher for exporters and putting more money in their pockets to purchase inputs domestically. 

“To make the most of the opportunity, we would need to see more willingness from protectionist governments to tolerate currency weakness, and from governments generally to focus on the improvements in the business and investment environments,” says Conradie. In the past, countries such as Nigeria have been reluctant to float their currencies, instead opting for dollar pegs. 

Still, there is plenty more to be done and the lower-than-expected spread of Covid-19 in Africa should not breed complacency. 

Hopes for the continent’s vaunted green revolution, built on rising agricultural production over the past half-century, are not dead. But governments must invest in irrigation, encourage a shift towards digitisation, support smallholder farmers with loans and act now to limit the long-term economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, before it is too late.

Source: African Business Magazine