No dollar does more for the people of the African continent than a dollar invested in agriculture. In fact, as a means of poverty alleviation, growth within agriculture in Africa is 11 times more effective than growth in any other industry.
Recognizing that agricultural investments are crucial to eliminating poverty in Africa, many African leaders promised in 2003 to allocate 10 percent of their national budgets specifically toward agriculture. Unfortunately, very few of those leaders were able to keep that promise – today, over 10 years later, African governments spend on average only 4 percent of their national budgets on agriculture.
Despite this, development experts are hopeful that more African leaders will commit to agricultural investment at the African Union Summit to be held in Equatorial Guinea at the end of this month.
Citizens from a plethora of African nations put pressure on their leaders to target poverty through funding agriculture at the African Union’s Conference of Ministers of Agriculture, Rural Development, Fisheries, and Aquaculture, held in Addis Ababa in May. At this conference, African leaders, farmers and agriculture advocates discussed topics including decreasing food insecurity, supporting female farmers and assisting small farms. Prominent advocates also presented a petition urging leaders to invest in agriculture in order to create jobs and feed families. At the time of the conference, over 600,000 African citizens had signed the petition.
Because governments across the continent have declared 2014 the “year of agriculture and food security,” politicians would be wise to listen to their constituents and make agriculture a priority.
Another result of May’s conference was a list of 10 policy recommendations attendees had for African leaders. Among their recommendations were to “work to eliminate the gender and youth gap in agriculture,” “foster access to markets for small-scale farmers” and “integrate sustainability and climate resilience into national agriculture plans.”
These recommendations are not only reasonable and sustainable, but address a number of flaws in the agriculture industry.
Clearly, the people of Africa are working to prioritize agriculture. International aid organizations should follow their lead – after all, it’s the most effective way of eliminating poverty in Africa.
—Elise L. Riley