UKZN Academics Attend Important Meeting on Agriculture in Africa
The Programme is an initiative of NEPAD - The New Partner for Africa’s Development - which aims to build a framework to guide African countries in their agricultural and land investment practices.
Among those in attendance were the new Chair of Agronomy in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES), Professor Paramu Mafongoya; Dr Maxwell Mudhara of the Food Security Discipline, and the Academic Leader of the School’s Food Security Discipline, Dr Joyce Chitja.
CAADP works in four areas - land and water management, market access, food supply and hunger and agricultural research.
UKZN’s School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences (SAEES) is the lead technical agency for the food supply and hunger focus of NEPAD’s work, led by the Food Security Discipline in SAEES. NEPAD has declared 2014 the year of Agriculture and Food Security, a topic which guided the meeting’s focus on setting goals for the next 10 years of its development.
The meeting was well-attended, with more than 800 delegates from Africa and all over the world. Organisations in attendance included governmental departments, academic institutions, donors and non-governmental organisations, such as the World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Delegates from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of South Africa were also present.
The format of the meeting allowed for smaller group workshops to take place and facilitate discussions around CAADP’s goals for the next 10 years. This was in line with their focus on bottom-up planning to encourage Africans from all over the continent to claim ownership of the programme which is run by and for Africans.
The CAADP hopes to focus on maintaining its momentum in the years to come, as well as encouraging Heads of State to sign their commitment to the programme which, according to Chitja, involves the dedication of 8% of its budget to agriculture.
The African Union Commission’s (AUC) Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, Ms Tumusiime Rhoda Peace, represented AU’s Chairperson, Ms Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
The Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) is the lead technical agency for CAADP’s focus area of Agricultural research. FARA has championed the idea of improving science to enable the agricultural development in Africa that is necessary for its economic and social transformation.
‘Africa’s future is in agriculture,’ said Mafongoya, ‘and we need science to develop and implement effective agricultural strategies. I believe that CAADP is integrating the continent’s agricultural practices through the frameworks that it proposes, and the meeting focused on the need for making its policies binding across the continent.’
The meeting focused on standardising guidelines for land investments in Africa as well as the sustainability of natural resources and the threat of climate change to Africa’s agricultural future.
Additional cross-cutting issues also became part of the discussions.
‘The issue of availability of agricultural inputs to smallholder farmers was discussed at length because of its importance,’ explained Mudhara. ‘Seed was identified at particularly undermining productivity. Other related issues were land tenure and the rights of women.’
‘The meeting was most useful,’ said Mafongoya, ‘and I believe UKZN, having been part of the planning process will be able to participate fully for the next 10 years.’
The discussions and decisions undertaken at this meeting will be presented to a Joint Conference of African Ministers of Agriculture, Fisheries, Livestock and Rural Development in Addis Ababa this month, while the 23rd Ordinary Summit in June in Equatorial Guinea will continue the process of making well informed, guided, and evidence-based decisions to transform Africa’s agriculture in the next decade.
- Christine Cuénod