Africa warned against pushing off small-holder farmers
Mildred Mulenga (PANA)-- A leading nutrition expert from Cornell University in the United States has warned that African governments ceding large parcels of land normally cultivated by small-holder farmers to multi-nationals and middle-income countries risk exacerbating food insecurity in their countries.
Per Pinstrup-Andersen, Professor of Food and Nutrition and Public Policy at Cornell, said Friday that although multi-national corporations and middle-income countries were bringing in capital-intensive equipment to grow food, which has resulted in an increase in food production in the global sense, this is not benefiting the rural vulnerable people in Africa who are malnourished.
He said the food produced in Africa by these foreign investors is going to people who are not malnourished such as those in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other middle-income countries.
‘My concern is that we are seeing a dramatic deteriorationin the well-being of those small-holders who have been cultivating this land for a long time but who could not get title. For instance, in Ethiopia you cannot get title to your land, so government can decide that you leave the land so that investors from outside come in and take over,’ Pinstrup-Andersen told PANA Friday in New Delhi, India, where a global conference to assess ways to increase agriculture’s contribution to better nutrition and health for the world’s most vulnerable people is taking place.
He suggested that African government should instead help small-holder farmers by investing in roads, water management systems, credit facilities, research and technology so that they (farmers) can expand production and escape poverty rather than simply pushing them off the land.
‘Unfortunately, most African governments do not have resources and they need assistant from outside but the governments themselves have to set the priorities and if the governments do not prioritise investment in rural areas, the country will not be able to expand food production to meet future demands,’ Pinstrup-Andersen said.
He said African countries should not let the international community set the priorities for them, adding that African governments must set the priorities themselves and implement whatever investments they can afford, adding: ‘Ignoring agriculture is ignoring economic growth opportunities in Africa.’
Pinstrup-Andersen cited Ethiopia and Ghana, and to a lesser extent Uganda, as some of the countries that are now making major investments in rural development and agriculture.
He expressed disappointment that most African countries are still not investing as much as they agreed to under the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) agreement.
Under the CAADP agreement entered in 2003, African leaders pledged to allocate ten per cent of their national budget to agriculture by 2008.
‘The conference here would be successful if it draws attention to the importance of incorporating nutrition and health goals into agriculture development but it takes more than attention. Attention is the first step, step two is to create action and for that we need resources, so lip service is cheap, we have to move beyond lip service and make investments for rural development that farmers can use in order to improve their well-being,’ Pinstrup-Andersen said.
The three-day conference on ‘leveraging agriculture for improving nutrition and health’, which began here Thursday, has brought experts to examine ways that agriculture can enhance the health and nutritional status of poor people in developing countries.
The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), organisers of the conference, said nearly a billion people now go hungry everyday and are unable to access the food they need for energy and growth, while several billions suffer from deficiencies in micronutrients like iron, vitamin A, and zinc.
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