Climate change is posing the biggest challenge to the growth of African agriculture.
Ethiopian Minister of Agriculture and Livestock Resources Dr. Eyasu Abreha is warning that over reliance on rain-fed agriculture is already compounding the situation.
Speaking at the 3rd Retreat of Permanent Secretaries and Secretaries General in charge of Agriculture Retreat in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Dr. Abreha said rain-fed agriculture is being hit hardest by climate change.
“Vulnerability of African countries to climate change is compounded by strong dependence on rain-fed agriculture and natural resources,” said Dr. Abreha.
He noted that cyclic droughts are having a devastating effect on smallholder famers who lack the capacity to invest in adaptive farming practices that can shield them from the vagaries of extreme weather events like El Nino and La Nina.
Global weather patterns, according to Dr. Abreha are some of the issues restricting Africa’s agriculture potential as the continent continues to depend on rain for its agriculture.
“The vagaries of weather have impaired many small holder farmers’ livelihoods and the livelihoods of Africa’s most vulnerable communities,’ said the Minister and added, “Africa is highly vulnerable to the longer-term risks of global climate change which could devastate our traditional staples and natural resources such as soil, water and forests.”
The Minister noted that the high poverty levels on the continent are not helping matters either, as low levels of human capital, low levels of preparedness to climate change and poor infrastructure in rural areas conspire against growing the agriculture sector.
The Minister said that emerging challenges include soil acidification which he said has seen yields drop in some areas, and urged African states to learn from best practices as well as invest in systems to allow for reclamation of acidified soils.
“Key challenges to our agriculture is reducing soil fertility due to reducing organic matter and an increase in soil acidification,” said Dr. Abreha and notes that among the solutions is liming the soils to improve productivity.
While calling for the involvement of small holder farmers and the private sector in farming, Dr. Abreha said policies that allow for investment of 10% of GDP to agriculture is key to realizing success in the sector.
“Ethiopia is close to becoming one of the handful of countries on the African continent that have met the CAADP targets of allocating at least 10% of national budget to the agriculture sector,” he said.
He is calling for a paradigm shift in agriculture, “from production oriented agriculture to commercial and market oriented agriculture where a farmer produces for the market so that agriculture is a business and not for merely as a livelihood.