GCARD2010: Is the African Green Revolution finally within reach?

Copyright: Jeff Haskins

Not yet, but there is good reason for optimism, said three of Africa’s leading farming and development advocates during a briefing with media at GCARD earlier today.

Pointing to new investments and commitments from African governments, donors, and an emergence of the local private agribusiness sector and community-based farmer groups as examples of progress, Dr. Monty Jones of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa noted, “The Green Revolution is coming, but I would like to caution that we should be very careful because we cannot say that the Green Revolution will be there in five years, or ten years,” said Dr. Jones. “But there are positive signs that things are happening.”

Dr. Jones pointed to the fact that political will within Africa has shown signs of changing to be more supportive of agriculture.

In his discussion related to good global, national, and local agricultural policies, Dr. Namanga Ngongi, President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, emphasized the need for prioritizing agriculture and good nutrition as a public good, equal to education and healthcare.

“There is no reason why food and nutrition security should not be considered a public good,” said Dr. Ngongi. “I am sure that if the international community placed agriculture at the same level as environment, at the same level as health, at the same level as education, a lot of the policies that are keeping agriculture ‘backward’ in the developing countries will be changed.”

 Coping with climate change

When asked about the role of climate change within this movement, Hartmann of IITA emphasized that environmental changes posed by climate change are themselves nothing new, but the speed at which things are changing is what is worrying.

“We are concerned that our farmers and governments don’t have the tools to respond,” said Hartmann. “The response needed won’t be very different from what we are fighting now, but the pace of change and learning that will be required to re-educate farmers scares the heck out of me.”

Beyond the issues of implementation and responding to climate change, the panelists emphasized the importance of political will, and more specifically of good leadership, in successfully transforming African agriculture.

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