The African Union Commission’s department for Rural Economy and Agriculture is calling for a paradigm shift in farming systems on the continent.
The Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) Adviser on Food and Nutrition Security Dr Laila Lokosang said a shift from indigenous crops to monoculture crops is undermining the quest to attaining nutrition security in Africa.
Speaking at a media training from agriculture journalists held at the Capital 20West in Johannesburg, Dr Lokosang said the introduction of monoculture crops like the hybrid maize that displaced millet and sorghum is detrimental to measures aimed at ensuring sustainable agriculture and nutrition security.
While noting that for any African family, food security was a mark of honour, Dr Lokosang called on policymakers to put in place policies that ensure sustainable food systems.
“The show of honour among African families was the ability to have sufficient nutritious food,” he said and added, “this is no longer the case as families can hardly feed themselves.”
He noted that indigenous crops are the only option for Africa in the face of climate change.
“We do not have to import wheat when we can make cakes and bread from cassava flour,” he said and added, “Sorghum and millet are wonder crops, these are foods that contain enormous amounts of zinc, iron, have digestible gluten unlike the imported wheat, we ought to rethink our diets and what we take today as food.”
Dr Lokosang said that the challenge of climate change is a reality noting that this can be addressed by growing indigenous crops which he noted are better suited for the African environment and can survive the weather patterns than the monoculture crops.
The Advisor on Nutrition Security said agriculture-led development that eliminates hunger and reduces poverty and food insecurity is sustainable. This he said can be done through the use of fertilizer of one kilogram per hectare of arable land, increase the size land under irrigation, ensure access to agriculture advisory services from agricultural extension officers as well access to improved seed in order to increase yields.
The CAADP Co-ordinator at the African Union Commission (AUC) Komla Bissi, appealed to African Union member states to recommit to the implementation of the Maputo Declaration of July 2003.
He said if governments allocate the 10% of the gross domestic product (GDP) to agriculture as agreed in Maputo, this will ensure sustained annual growth in the sector of 6%.
Komla said that the second commitment in the Biennial Review of enhancing investment finance in agriculture, “is one that countries ought to recommit to, so as to grow the sector.”
He noted that the Biennial Review Report and the Africa Agriculture Transformation Scorecard shows that if member states stay the course, and provided funding to the sector, “Agriculture is capable of ensuring sustained economic growth of member states, the success of programs aimed at poverty alleviation as well as save the continent from the vagaries of hunger and ensure food nutrition security.”
Komla noted that with adequate budgetary allocation to the agriculture sector, will see investment in agricultural research as well as a technological innovation which will attract more youth to the sector, “hence deal with the onerous task of providing much-needed employment opportunities.”