The United Nations Deputy Secretary-General today highlighted the benefits of investing in agriculture, which she stressed is the key to a brighter future for Africa and its people.
“Since time immemorial, agriculture has been the cornerstone of development in every region, not just in Africa,” Asha-Rose Migiro told participants at the African Union Assembly in Sirte, Libya.
Addressing this year’s theme, “Investing in Agriculture for Economic Growth and Food Security,” Ms. Migiro said the benefits of such investment were clear.
Agricultural investment creates jobs, can make economic growth more durable, can increase food and nutritional security, and can also have a “profound” impact on social equality, particularly by improving the situation of women, who account for the bulk of smallholder farmers in Africa, she stated.
“By some estimates, a dollar invested in agriculture in Africa has a two or three times greater impact on poverty than the same amount invested in other sectors,” said Ms. Migiro. “And yet, until recently, agriculture has often been neglected in national development strategies.”
This “neglect” has resulted in high food prices, many higher than the poorest can afford, she said, noting that 265 million people in sub-Saharan Africa currently go hungry – an increase of almost 12 per cent over last year.
Ms. Migiro called for giving agriculture the attention it deserves, including by ensuring that all African countries have a national agricultural development strategy, and that they fulfil their pledges to raise agricultural spending to 10 per cent of their national budgets.
Donors, working with Africa’s farmers, will also need to step up their support, she added. The Secretary-General’s Africa Steering Group estimated that that an increase in annual agricultural aid – from its current levels of $1-2 billion per year to $8 billion – would allow Africa to meet the goal of halving extreme poverty, one of eight globally agreed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
“This is a great deal of money, but some perspective is in order. Against the trillions in liquidity marshalled to combat the financial crisis, increased aid to African agriculture is eminently feasible,” said the deputy UN chief.
While stressing the need to boost Africa’s agricultural sector and ensure food security, she also highlighted the “daunting” challenges to peace and political stability faced by some nations on the continent.
“We must act resolutely together to end the scourge of violence and conflict that still bedevils our beloved continent,” she stated, touching on the situations in Somalia, Sudan and Madagascar, among others.