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Only 13 African countries are investing enough in agriculture

By Paul Wafula | Published Wed, September 7th 2016 at 00:00, Updated September 6th 2016 at 22:31 GMT +3

President Uhuru Kenyatta will today join other African heads of state for the opening of an agriculture conference in Nairobi.

This comes at a time when African governments have been accused of neglecting the sector.

A report launched yesterday showed that since 2003, only 13 African countries among them Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Ethiopia, have hit or surpassed their pledge to invest at least 10 per cent of public funds in agriculture.

The report, African Agriculture Status Report 2016, shows that farmers in Africa are earning 70 per cent less income from agriculture than their peers in Asia due to poor soils.

It notes that on 65 per cent of Africa's farmable lands, soils lack the necessary nutrients, and many farmers lack the inputs and technical knowledge to revive them. This costs African farmers at least $68 million (Sh680 million) in lost income opportunities.

For example, African farmers cultivating new, improved varieties of maize and other crops see only a 28 per cent bump in yields on average while their counterparts in Asia are enjoying an 88 per cent increase.

The report was launched at the ongoing African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Nairobi. Econet founder Strive Masiyiwa and philanthropist David Rockefeller Jr are among the billionaires expected to attend the conference.

African heads of state expected at the forum that seeks to assess the challenges facing the agriculture sector include Rwanda President Paul Kagame and Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama. The conference will be used to evaluate the commitments made by African governments.

"Where there is the right mix of interventions, we see it delivering considerable economic opportunities and addressing fundamental development milestones, like improving nutrition. But where it is neglected, agriculture continues to be a barrier to generating more sustainable and equitable economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa," said Thomas Jayne, a professor of agricultural, food, and resource economics at Michigan State University and a co-author of the report.

Former presidents Jakaya Kikwete (Tanzania) and Olusegun Obasanjo (Nigeria) will also address the meeting.


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