18 June 2016
Agricultural experts have called on African governments to reform agricultural policies and improve extension services as key role players in the transformation of agricultural practices on the continent.
They made the call in Kigali during the Rwandan Agricultural show, which started on June 12 and would close on June 20.
The show has “Invest in Agricultural Innovations for Prosperity’’ as its theme.
Yemi Akinbamijo, Executive Director of the forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) said that extension should involve facilitation of innovation processes.
He said governments should bring together diverse stakeholders who could make the difference in terms of decision making in different domains in order to increase agriculture production.
Akinbamijo pointed out that agriculture extension services in Africa needed to be improved upon to facilitate better and sustainable agricultural practices among farmers.
He said: “Farmers’ knowledge with regards to improved farming methods is limited which has resulted into low crop yields. The challenge is how to deliver a policy of agricultural extension that is connected with the contemporary concepts of development and sustainability.’’
Akimbamijo noted that agricultural extension had long been regarded as a key element for enabling farmers to obtain information and technologies that could improve their livelihoods.
He added that extension services were also recognised as an important factor in promoting agricultural development.
Tony Nsanganira, Rwanda’s Minister of Agriculture, noted that investments in extension services were considered as potentially important tools for improving agricultural productivity and increasing farmers’ incomes.
He said Rwanda had implemented various agricultural extension programmes to improve agricultural production and productivity, farm income and rural livelihoods.
“We need innovative ways so that the extension officer is equipped to deal with agriculture emerging issues.
“We need continuous capacity building at various levels, farmers, policymakers, extension officers and their trainers,’’ he said.
In its contribution, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) noted that hunger and poverty were currently widespread on the African continent.
It noted that the African continent had recorded declining rates of agricultural extension services and investments over the past three decades.
FAO said an estimated 240 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa are food insecure.
Abdenego Kiwia, Program Coordinator, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), said that instead of considering the extension service as a public good, Africa should consider extension services as a public-private partnership.
He said this could be achieved by inviting more private companies to join with the public sector to strengthen extension services.
Kiwia noted that a vibrant, sustainable and resilient agriculture sector was vital for sub-Saharan Africa’s economic future.
“Farming is the primary source of food and income for Africans and provides up to 60 per cent of all jobs on the continent.
“Food production in sub-Saharan Africa needs to increase by 60 per cent over the next 15 years to feed a growing population,’’ he said.
He said that World Bank data indicated that Africa’s food and beverage markets were expected to reach 1 trillion dollars in value by 2030.
The show has brought together more than 200 local and international agriculture exhibitors to showcase their innovations and best practices.