To date, the Millennium and Development Goals (MDGs) remain the most successful global anti-poverty initiatives in history. The target of “reducing extreme poverty rates by half” was met five years ahead of the 2015 deadline. The global poverty rate at $1.25 a day fell in 2010 to less than half the 1990 rate.
However, despite the fact that part of the MDG1 (Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger) has been achieved, there are still 870 million people hungry in the world. In Africa, food and nutrition security remains a challenge with more than 230 million people hungry (FAO, 2012). Can Agricultural Research for Development (ARD) be the solution in addressing food security challenges?
The main cause of hunger is poverty. Most people are hungry or undernourished because they cannot afford to buy, produce or have access to food or nutritious food. The recent rise in food prices has simply worsened poverty and at this point, producing more food is essential. But increasing food production, without having to compromise with the environment and contribute to climate change is a big challenge for agricultural development. This is where the role of agricultural research and innovation is crucial.
In Africa, 60% of its arable land is un-utilized and the remaining 40% under agriculture is producing low yield. Africa has the potential to produce and feed itself, but there are many changes that should take place.
At continental level, the biggest initiative has been the establishment of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). The overall role of CAADP is to eliminate hunger and reduce poverty through agriculture. To achieve this, African governments have agreed to increase public investment in agriculture by a minimum of 10% of their national budgets and to raise agricultural productivity by at least 6%. This is to be done through the CAADP’s four Pillars. The CAADP Pillar 4 on Agricultural research, technology dissemination and adoption, is being led by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA).
In an effort to implement the CAADP Pillar 4, FARA has been running several projects, involving various stakeholders, including the youths. In May 2013, FARA in collaboration with YPARD Africa gathered 30 youths across Africa to attend a workshop on “Engaging Youth in the implementation Phase of the CAADP Transformation Agenda – KIS”. This meeting gave them a platform to share their country experiences and the agricultural policies being developed and implemented.
At continental level, we have the CAADP, but there will be a real transformation only when agricultural policies at national level are reviewed. To make this happen, FARA has been working with stakeholders at country level and is now taking another major step by involving youth in the policy processes and implementation at National levels through the YPARD country representatives.
Agriculture has been neglected for many years and few policies have been put in place to improve rural livelihoods. On the other hand, too little investment has been made in agricultural research and development. To be realistic, we cannot expect a sustainable increase agricultural production without investing in agricultural research and involving the youth in the process!
Will you be at the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week from 15-20 July 2013? Do not miss the side event on “Empowering women and youth for improved productivity, competitiveness and resilience of African Agriculture” on 15th July!
Blogpost with input by Divine Ntiokam, from Cameroon. He is the Global Youth Digital Advocate for post-2015 Development Agenda and MY World Global Survey Processes. He equally serves as the Country Representative for the Young Professionals’ Platform for Agricultural Research for Development (YPARD) and Special Representative for Energy Globe Foundation which is the world’s largest Award on Sustainable Development Projects.