Mubarak calls for African farming drive

Posted: 30 June 2008

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has called on African countries to implement a comprehensive agriculture development plan to increase agricultural production through expanding plantations and making efficient use of water resources, the Xinhua news agency reports.

The Egyptian president made the call at the opening ceremony of the summit of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD)Heads of State and Government Implementation Committee meeting ahead of the African Union summit in the Egyptian Red Searesort.

"The comprehensive agriculture development plan is becoming more and more important as Africa is currently facing the challenge of global food insecurity and food prices hiking," the Egyptian president noted.

The African states, therefore, are required more than ever to co-ordinate all efforts for outlining a comprehensive agricultural programme with a view to increasing crop productivity and expanding the arable lands along with using modern agricultural and irrigation technologies, said the Mubarak.

He called for giving priority and full attention to scientific research to increase agricultural productivity and introduce new seed strains that can better stand abominable weather conditions as well as pests and diseases.

President Mubarak also called for more attention on fishing and fisheries.

In his speech, he also reviewed the progress NEPAD has achieved since its establishment in 2001 in Zambia, as well as the developmentand achievements of the African Peer Review (APR) Mechanism, calling for efficient and constructive partnership with internationalfinancial institutions and developed industrial economies.

The NEPAD has been conceived as a strategic framework for Africa to address the current challenges facing the continent: poverty,underdevelopment and the marginalization of Africa in the globalization process.

Source: Xinhua June 28, 2008

Contributing editor John Madeley writes:

The food crisis and calls such as this one by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak could be the signal for a long overdue renewed interest inagriculture in Africa.

The commitment to agriculture by African leaders is long-standing but lacks implementation. The Organization of African Unity's 1980 LagosPlan of Action, recognises that "Member States have not usually accorded the necessary priority to agriculture, both in the allocation of resources and in giving sufficient attention to policies for the promotion of productivity and improvement of rural life." African leaders added that "the fundamental requisite is a strong political will to channel a greatly increased volume of resources to agriculture". But few countries went on to allocate more funds to the sector.

In 2003, the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) was set up by the African Union under the New Partnership forAfrica's Development (NEPAD. It includes a commitment by African governments to allocate 10 per cent of state spending to agricultureby 2008. But most African countries are likely to fall short of this.

For amid the words about the importance of agriculture, spending on the sector by many African governments is very low. The Government of Zambia says, for example, that agriculture remains "the key priority in the growth and poverty reduction programme of Zambia". Yet thegovernment's spending on agriculture has been less than five per cent of total budget and less than one per cent of national income.

Findings from a joint UK NGO study on aid to agriculture in Africa showed that most countries were far below the CAADP 10 per cent targetin the period 2000 - 2005. Almost all budgets to agriculture between this period ranged between 3 and 5 per cent of national budget. OnlyMalawi and Ethiopia, allocating 12.2 per cent and 16 per cent to agriculture in 2005/06 and 2004/05 respectively, were exceptions. Andbudget allocations in most countries were higher than actual expenditures.

This year's food crisis may however be the spur for action, for considerably increased spending on agriculture in Africa. Millions oflives could depend on it.