African ‘Green Revolution’ Should Focus On Small Farmers, U.N. Report Says

Investments in agricultural technology should be directed to Africa’s smallholder farmers in an effort to increase food security after decades of low funding, the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said in a report on Wednesday, Reuters reports (Lynn, 5/19).

The report “warns that ‘ineffective farming techniques and wasteful post-harvest practices’ have left sub-Saharan Africa as the region most likely to miss the [Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)] on poverty and hunger,” the U.N. News Centre writes. Africa needs a “green revolution” that helps the continent utilize innovative farming technologies. “The report notes that Africa’s smallholder farmers can benefit from new technologies such as low-cost drip irrigation and plastic water tanks to store runoff, as opposed to modern irrigation systems which can increase crop yields but are designed more for larger farms,” the news service notes (5/19).

Small farmers in Africa should also work with new crop varieties, Reuters reports. UNCTAD Secretary-General Supachai Panitchpakdi pointed to “New Rice for Africa,” an Asian-African combination of a drought resistant crop and one that has high yields, as one example. Government policies can also play a role. “The report notes how a policy of ‘smart subsidies’ to ease access to fertilisers has resulted in staggering increases in maize production in Malawi, showing the key role played by credit and other instruments in improving access to existing technology,” according to Reuters.

At a briefing on the report, Supachai said, “There has been a severe deterioration in the way that agriculture should have been addressed, supported by the national governments, supported by the international community and also supported by the kind of technology and innovation methodology that could really prove to be of great help as it has done in Asia.” He added that increasing yields was essential. Angel Gonzalez, an author of the report, told the briefing that 60 percent of employment in Africa is in the agricultural sector, which is made up of more than 95 percent of small farmers, according to the news service (5/19).

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