Posted by: APO | 29 August 2007

African Green Revolution Conference

Media Advisory

 

Climate change, biofuel markets and migration to feature in African Green Revolution Conference

 

IFAD Vice-President will present perspectives on emerging global challenges and effects on small-scale African farmers at Oslo meeting

 

Oslo and Rome, 28 August 2007, “The rural world is at a crossroads, facing ever-increasing pressure to produce more food to feed growing populations amid a number of rapidly evolving global challenges such as climate change, rural-urban migration and emerging biofuel markets,” said Kanayo Nwanze, Vice-President of IFAD, prior to the opening of the African Green Revolution (AGR) Conference scheduled to take place from 29 August to 1 September in Oslo.

 

“IFAD’s goal is to ensure that any policies, laws or regulations established to deal with these issues do not overlook the needs of the poor smallholder farmers of Africa who are at the highest risk,” he said.

 

While agricultural production on other continents has increased in recent decades, productivity in Africa has actually decreased. The AGR supports African farming communities as they evolve from subsistence farming to sustainable modern agriculture. This shift requires the development of agricultural techniques that are scientifically and economically viable and at the same time are environmentally friendly and manageable by the African farming communities themselves.

 

This year’s African Green Revolution Conference, with the theme ‘Partnership for Productivity’ will host a diverse group of about 200 participants including farmers and practitioners, heads of state or government, senior government officials, representatives of non-governmental organizations and civil society, and leaders from the private sector. It will provide a venue for considering public-private partnerships aimed at increasing Africa’s agricultural productivity.

 

“The AGR will move forward with support from the outside because the challenges facing African agricultural development require comprehensive solutions only possible through strategic alliances,” Nwanze said.

 

Nwanze, a former Director General of the Africa Rice Center (WARDA), will participate in panels dealing with adapting to climate change and smallholder farmers. He also will deliver a public lecture hosted by the Norwegian Institute for Agriculture and Environmental Research (Bioforsk) and the University of Life Sciences. The lecture, which will be attended by representatives of several Norwegian research institutes, including researchers, educators and development specialists, will focus on emerging challenges and their effect on smallholders in the African context.

“For an African Green Revolution to be successful, it has to reach as many farmers as possible, mostly subsistence farmers,” Nwanze said. “A grass-roots approach encompassing higher yield seeds, correct use of fertilizers, improved irrigation and better infrastructure needs to be tailored to local traditions and practices in each country.”

Wealthy nations have the means and know-how to adapt to climate changes that affect their agricultural patterns, but a poor African farmer’s power to cope with crop and livestock losses, drought or dust storms, or to adopt new types of crops that would adapt to the changes, is infinitely less.

 

The same is true for the vast increases in urban populations. These increases have shifted shopping patterns from informal rural markets where African farmers have traditionally sold their produce to modern supermarkets that have strict standards for quality, consistency and timeliness of supply that are very difficult for smallholder farmers to meet.

“For example, the problem of smallholder farmers meeting the quality standards of urban supermarkets could be overcome with the establishment of farmers’ associations that allow farmers to share required training, equipment and transportation expenses. The bottom line is to empower them,” Nwanze said.

The issue of the increased demand for biofuel would seem, at first glance, to be a boon for smallholder farmers. Rising demand for energy crops has the immediate potential of raising the prices of agricultural commodities and providing income and employment opportunities in rural areas. However, there is the long-term question of its possible impact on food security. Supply-and-demand imbalances could arise as more land is used to produce higher-value energy crops.

IFAD, as a United Nations financial institution that provides loans and grants focused on improving agricultural production and enabling rural people to overcome poverty, works to strengthen the capacity of poor rural people and their organizations, such as grass-roots farmers’ groups and community organizations.

Since IFAD was established, nearly half of its programmes and projects have been devoted to African countries. IFAD has made a total of US$4 billion in loans and grants, financing close to 345 programmes and projects in 51 African countries, of which more than 120, valued at more than US$2.6 billion, are ongoing.

 

Before joining IFAD, Nwanze, as Director General of WARDA, was instrumental in the introduction of New Rice for Africa (NERICA), a high-yield, drought- and pest-resistant rice variety developed specifically for the African landscape.

 

“It serves smallholders well because there is less need for inputs of fertilizer and pesticide or for irrigation,” he said.

 

IFAD has provided US$2 million to WARDA to promote the use of NERICA in the region and is now designing a series of grants to accelerate NERICA seed multiplication activities in Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Guinea. Nwanze said that increased availability of NERICA can contribute to the revival of agriculture in these countries.

 

The goals of the African Green Revolution, supporting African farming communities as they evolve from subsistence farming to sustainable modern agriculture, dovetail with IFAD’s goals. Already, 30,000 farmers in 20 African countries are using NERICA varieties and profiting from less drudgery in the field as well as improved family nutrition and increased yields.

 

And, appropriate to the fact that the Conference is being held in Norway, NERICA, as well as the rice varieties from which it was developed, will be among the seed samples that will be conserved in the Norway’s new Svalbard Seed Vault. This vault, funded by the Norwegian Government, will eventually contain duplicates of 3 million seeds representing the collections of most of the world’s gene banks.

 

IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialized United Nations agency dedicated to eradicating poverty and hunger in rural areas of developing countries. Through low-interest loans and grants, IFAD develops and finances programmes and projects that enable poor rural people to overcome poverty themselves. There are 195 ongoing IFAD-supported rural poverty eradication programmes and projects, worth a total of US$6.7 billion. IFAD has invested US$3.1 billion, with cofinancing provided by partners including governments, project participants, multilateral and bilateral donors. These initiatives will help about 86 million poor rural women and men to achieve better lives for themselves and their families. Since starting operations in 1978, IFAD has invested US$9.6 billion in 738 programmes and projects that have reached more than 307 million poor rural women and men. Governments and other financing sources in recipient countries, including project participants, contributed US$9.1 billion, and multilateral, bilateral and other donors provided another US$7.1 billion in cofinancing.


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