African governments urged to mechanize agriculture

By Christine Muchira

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Willy Bett has said African governments need to mechanize agriculture and involve the youth to make it a viable venture.

Speaking during the Sixth African Green Revolution Forum 2016 (AGRF) press briefing, the CS said farmers should be equipped with the right technology to avoid post-harvest loses.

President of AGRF Dr Agnes Kalibata, said that heads of state and high-level officials from over 40 countries are among 1500 agriculture experts gathering here for the forum, where they have promised to deliver hundreds of millions of dollars in new investments for African farmers and agriculture businesses.

Also in attendance was Mamadou Biteye Managing Director, Africa, The Rockefeller Foundation who emphasized on the importance of the private sector noting that they come in as a source finance and bring in technology that helps farmers avoid post-harvest loses.

Bitaye said AGRF 2016 aims to give the private sector a platform and an opportunity to be part of agriculture.

“Seize the moment”

AGRF 2016’s official slogan is “Seize the Moment” Securing Africa’s Rise through Agricultural Transformation. “Seize the Moment” is also the name of an ambitious Africa-wide agriculture campaign launched by the African Union Commission, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the African Development Bank (AfDB) and key NGOs and donor countries.

There is hope that it will soon be backed by hundreds of millions of dollars in new investments from African governments, development partners, the private sector and financial institutions.

The “Seize the Moment” campaign is expected to bring a world-wide call to action from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), energized by President Obama’s Global Food Security initiative the largest development commitment from the administration and one that is aligned closely with the African Union’s agriculture agenda.

In addition, both the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are expected to endorse the campaign and continue their strong backing of efforts to boost production and income for smallholder farmers and local agriculture businesses.

Ten years ago, funding from the two organizations launched the Nairobi-based Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

Today, they continue to work closely with AGRA, which has developed an extensive network of partners in the public and private sector across 18 countries.

Meanwhile, following the lead of President Kenyatta, heads of state from Rwanda and Ghana are expected to highlight detailed, nationwide agriculture development strategies covering multi-year spending plans, policy reforms and accountability scorecards.

“There is unprecedented agreement here in Kenya and across Africa that big investments in agriculture are the key to food security and strong economic growth,” said H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya, who is hosting the Forum.  “We need to capitalize on this consensus particularly with drought exposing long-standing vulnerabilities in food production and crashing commodity prices demanding more sustainable economic strategies that agriculture clearly can provide.”

In addition, the Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) will outline efforts to give agriculture a higher profile in its loan portfolio and seek a similar commitment from other leading financial institutions.

“While much has been accomplished over the last decade, we need to work far more aggressively to tap the potential of agriculture to be a powerful engine of economic growth across Africa,” said Mr. Strive Masiyiwa, Founder and Executive Chairman of Econet Wireless who also chairs AGRA’s Board. “Just as we have seen in Africa’s telecom revolution, I believe the private sector can become a force for social change by transforming African agriculture,” he added. “Business-focused investments in production, processing and marketing can ensure that the soaring demand for food products among Africa’s urban consumers delivers new economic opportunities for rural communities and African youth.”

A major highlight of the meeting will be the release of a landmark annual African Agriculture Status Report (AASR). Subtitled “Progress towards an Agriculture Transformation in Sub-Saharan Africa,” AASR 2016 offers a detailed analysis of a decade-long agriculture expansion effort that has been the most successful development initiative in African history.

The report also offers a frank assessment of the challenges that lie ahead and recommends strategies for overcoming them.

Another groundbreaking moment at the AGRF will be the inaugural award of the newly-created Africa Food Prize. The accolade calls attention to individuals and institutions that are inspiring and driving agricultural innovation throughout Africa. The Africa Food Prize Committee is chaired by H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria.

This year’s AGRF will feature many other heroes of African agriculture who are committed to mobilizing the investments and partnerships that can “seize the moment” for making Africa’s agriculture potential a reality.

“We believe Kenya is the appropriate venue for this historic gathering because farming and food production are the lifeblood of the Kenyan economy and we want to set an example that others can follow. We are committed to pushing through the policy and financial reforms that can make farming and other agriculture businesses an economically and environmentally sustainable way of life.”said Kenya’s Agriculture Cabinet Secretary  Willy Bett.



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