Global Food Crisis Golden Opportunity for African Farmers
"The global food crisis is the result of a perfect storm," said Dr. Pedro Sanchez of the Earth Institute at an event in Nairobi on Thursday, April 24. "The diversion of land for biofuels, the increasing demand for feed grains and the drought in Australia have all contributed to the soaring food prices," said Sanchez.
Speaking at a press briefing organized by The MDG Centre in Nairobi on Thursday, Pedro Sanchez stressed that Africa now has a tremendous opportunity to make its agriculture sector profitable. "When the prices are high, African governments should do all they can to increase the food production. By supporting agricultural inputs, as the Government of Malawi has done with subsidy programs for seeds and fertilizers, the much needed African Green Revolution can be made operational."
Sanchez called for the establishment of a global fund for agriculture in Africa. He was critical towards the donor countries’ response so far to the global food crisis, saying that more emergency packages would only serve as band aids. Farmers need fertilizer and better seed to produce more food.
This criticism was echoed by Dr. Namanga Ngoni, President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). "As long as Africa depends on imports for meeting our food demands, we will experience food crises as the costs continue to rise for consumers. Donors should step up their efforts to provide input support programs for African smallholder farmers and boost local production. We in Africa can and must be able to grow our own food."
The Permanent Secretary of Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Romano Kiome, said to the press that he was in favour of creating a financing mechanism to support Africa’s farmers. "We will of course welcome initiatives that would enable our small-scale farmers to produce more food."
PS Kiome said he did not foresee an immediate shortage of staple foods such as maize in Kenya, but that the Government followed the developments closely. "We know that we have about four months consumption of maize in storage, but that some farmers also have more maize bags stored as they wait for the best time to sell."
According to Kiome, the Government’s immediate priority was to ensure that food production in the Rift Valley Province, seen as Kenya’s food basket, would go back to normal as soon as possible. The province was hard hit by displacements of more than half a million people, mostly farmers, due the violence following Kenya’s general election in December.