Nairobi/Rome. A new report by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) shows that agricultural growth is at slow pace in poverty reduction in the rural areas in East and Southern Africa.
The report released on Tuesday in Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi, indicates that many small holder farmers in the region continue to live in poverty while struggling to own land and access to credit.
A rural farmer in Owaffa Sub-county in Arua in his tobacco farm
According to the Rural Development Report 2016, the picture that emerges is of an expanding agricultural sector, but one with a weak foundation that is preventing a broad-based reduction in poverty and inequality.
In a press release by IFAD, Lakshmi Menon, Associate Vice-President, IFAD, said the Rural Development Report “has uncovered answers to key questions about the nature, pace and direction of changes in rural areas, how they relate to a country’s overall economic development, and what that means for our efforts to improve the lives and livelihoods of rural people.”
With 70 to 90 per cent of the people in the region living in rural areas and dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods, results in the fast-transforming continent are mixed.
According to the report, dependence on agriculture is high in Ethiopia, where primary agriculture contributes about half of the total gross domestic product (GDP), to a low in South Africa and Zambia, where the service and mining sectors contribute more.
Presenting the findings from the report, Sana Jatta, Regional Director of IFAD’s East and Southern Africa said: “Inclusive rural transformation will not happen automatically, it must be made to happen. To do this, four interconnected strategies were needed: overcoming the agricultural productivity challenge, promoting manufacturing and optimizing opportunities in agriculture, supporting the rural non-farm economy, and coping with the youth bulge.”
A farmer with his goats being fed on leaves in Arua district. Photos by Felix
Willy Bett, Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture of Kenya, noted that rural areas were at the centre of most economic activities in Africa.
“Rural transformation cannot happen if the government is not linking production to markets. The only way to do so was to provide market access to farmers and link the rural and urban areas together,” he said.
Agnes Kalibata, President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), said that rural transformation in Africa was intrinsically linked to prioritization of investments by governments. She stressed that those at the bottom of the smallholder pyramid should be given the opportunity to take off.
Uganda’s Prime Minister, Ruhakana Rugunda examines the products made by youths in Koboko district in Northern Uganda
“We need to continue driving agricultural output for Africa, based on the fact that if we allow agriculture to go down, we will not see the type of inclusive growth that the continent is currently seeing,” she said.
Notwithstanding rapid urbanization, projections indicate that youths seeking to establish families and livelihoods will be predominantly rural in sub-Saharan Africa for at least two more decades. Creating jobs for youth on and off the farm is crucial.