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Increased investment in African farmers needed, says UN rural development chief

Increased investment in African farmers needed, says UN rural development chief

The head of the United Nations rural development arm underlined the crucial role played by African farmers in producing food and combating climate change, calling on the international community to boost their support for the agriculture sector on the continent.

“Too often agriculture is seen as an unproductive and unprofitable sector,” Lennart Båge, President of the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), said at the African Green Revolution Conference underway in Oslo, Norway.

“But the truth is that agriculture and those tilling the land – men and women smallholder farmers – have the capacity to feed the world while managing and protecting some of the key assets of our global environment.”

Nearly two billion people depend on the world’s 450 million smallholder farms for food and livelihoods, according to IFAD.

With global demand for food expected to surge by 50 per cent in the next two decades, these planters in Africa need greater long-term investment to increase agricultural productivity, not hand-outs, Mr. Båge said.

“The world urgently needs a green revolution in Africa. And the African continent has the potential to deliver,” he said. “But we are still failing, collectively, to give Africa the level of coordinated and cohesive support that it needs to do so.”

The two-day Conference, which wraps up today, brought together world leaders and representatives of both the private sector and development agencies to discuss how to provide sustainable assistance to African farmers.