African leaders have been urged to initiate incentive systems that will encourage the youth to move into agriculture and regard agriculture as a business venture and not as a way of life, whilst governments invest in the sector.
Dr Namanga A. Ngongi, President of Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, who disclosed this in an interview with the Ghana News Agency in Accra said the population of Africa was increasing rapidly and urbanization had driven more youth from the rural to urban settlements.
He noted that there was a high number of youth who were unemployed and hovering around in search for jobs, “but our lands in the rural need to be used and the youth should take that up”.
The President explained that the population of Africa had tripled between 1950 and 1995 and Sub-Saharan Africa population was projected to grow from 600 million in 2000 to nearly a billion by 2020.
“Meanwhile, during the last 15 years, investment in agricultural development in Africa has been dropping.”
Poverty, limited access to appropriate technologies, poor infrastructure, high transport cost, limited irrigation, poorly functioning input markets, lack of access to finance and weak policy support for small-scale farmers were some current challenges, he said.
AGRA, chaired by Mr. Kofi Annan, former United Nations Secretary General has its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya and had just opened an office in Accra to serve the West African countries aimed at engaging African organisations of farmers, agro-dealers, scientists, private sector firms, national leaders and institutions to address challenges faced in agriculture by small-scale farmers.
Founded by Rockefeller Foundation and The Bill and Melinda Grates Foundation in 2006, it endorses the framework set out by NEPAD's Comprehensive Africa Development Programme agreed upon by African leaders aimed at a sustained a six per cent annual growth in agricultural production by 2015.
Its formation was in response to Kofi Annan's call for a new “uniquely African Green Revolution that will help the continent in its quest for dignity and peace” during his tenure of office.
Dr Ngongi explained that the agricultural land available to most farmers now was too limited for effective use of fallows and called for policies of environmentally conscious city planners.
“The wise and efficient use of modern tools of agriculture, combined with the best farming practices, can dramatically boost agricultural production for small-scale farmers and protect the environment”, he added.
AGRA President noted that with its headquarters based in Kenya, an office has just been opened in Accra to serve West African countries and had received agreement with over 10 agricultural institutions in Ghana, including University of Ghana and Council for Scientific and Industrial Research as well as other farmer associations to ensure its sustainability.
Dr. Ngongi said AGRA would, by 2009 address major challenges in off-farm systems and markets, including improvements of crops storage, finance systems, market information and transport systems.
“Africa is the only region where overall food security and livelihoods were deteriorating. The number of Africans living below the poverty line has increased by 50 per cent and estimated one-third of the continent's population suffers from daily hunger”.
He called for the need to develop better and more appropriate seeds, fortified depleted seeds, improve access to water, encourage government policies to support small-scale farmers and ensure constant monitoring and evaluation to ensure that the lives of small-scale farmers are improved. He pledged AGRA support in helping African countries to achieve these goals.