New approaches to agricultural productivity to alleviate poverty, malnutrition and hunger (AlertNet)

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Revamp African ag policy to address hunger and poverty – experts

Source: alertnet // Katie Murray

By Katie Murray

LONDON (AlertNet) – New approaches to agricultural productivity could help alleviate widespread poverty, malnutrition and hunger in many African countries, international development and agriculture experts said at a conference this week in Ethiopia focused on boosting agricultural output in Africa.

In 2003, African heads of state agreed to allocate 10 percent of their national budget to agriculture and rural development policy within five years.  That target was not reached, but as a whole African countries have since managed to double their spending on agricultural and rural policy from an average of 3 percent to 6 percent of national spending, said Shenggen Fan, the director of the International Food Policy Research Institute, an organization that works to find sustainable solutions to ending poverty and hunger.

The problem is “that is not enough,” Fan said in a telephone interview.

Agricultural productivity in Africa is particularly imperiled by climate change impacts, including more extreme and unpredictable weather. Reducing climate-changing emissions and finding ways to adapt to changes already underway will be key, Fan said.

CLIMATE PRESSURES

African countries suffer disproportionately more from climate change than most places in the world, in part because many farmers are poor and lack resources to prepare for climate impacts or respond to setbacks from problems like crop failure, experts say.

African countries are very prone to weather shocks, Fan said, and these will continually happen “more often, more frequently than before.”

Fan stressed the importance of finding new crop varieties that are resistant to drought and more resilient when weather shocks occur.  He also said unconventional approaches, like organic farming, should be looked into as potential farming strategies for some parts of the continent.

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Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.