by Eric Hazard
Over 810,000 people are in need of immediate food aid in northern Mali as I write this blog. In the Sahel as a whole, around 20 million people will need food aid over the coming two years.
African leaders came together in Maputo, Mozambique in 2003 and agreed to refocus national attention to building stronger, more dynamic agriculture sectors. In the Maputo Declaration, they agreed to re-invest at least 10 percent of their national budgets to improve food security, reduce poverty, and spur rural development—a move that would help prevent food crises like the one in the Sahel from occurring.
The Maputo declaration is absolutely critical in maintaining focus on those who need it most – the small scale producers, the women, men and children struggling to get enough to eat.
However, the reality of these leaders’ promises is this: Only 8 countries of the 54 that make up the African Union have kept their promise!
The time is ripe to urge them to do so. The African Union has declared 2014 to be “the year of agriculture and food security” and governments have launched an effort to take stock of what has been achieved in the fight against hunger. That why we are determined, together with the ONE Campaign, many farmer and pastoralist organizations across the African continent, and African musical artists to make sure the Maputo commitments are translated into concrete action.
Here are 10 reasons why it’s important to tell African leaders to keep their Maputo promises to agriculture and smallholder farmers:
- Agriculture provides employment for 63% of the sub-Sahara African population and creates 30% of its wealth.
- Family-run agriculture provides 90% of basic food production in sub-Saharan Africa.
- Investing in African agriculture is 11 times more effective in reducing poverty than investing in other sectors.
- Repeated food crises can be anticipated and we can prevent them from becoming disasters by investing in agriculture and livestock farming.
- Hunger is expensive. In Niger, the accumulated expenditures to deal with the last two food crises amounted to 404.29 billion CFA francs, while spending on the rural sector totalled 302.64 billion CFA francs for the period covering 2007-2010.
- Investment pays off. In Senegal support to the onion growing sector has helped it to go from 40,000 tonnes in 2003 to 177,000 tonnes by 2010. It now represents 22 billion CFA francs per year.
- Investment pays off. In Mali, the Rice initiative has improved productivity from 3.5 tonnes per hectare, to 4.5 in 2008, to 5 tonnes in 2009.
- Investment pays off. Between 1992 and 1998, the Guinea government provided support to the growing of local Guinean potatoes and production went from less than 300 tonnes in 1992 to close to 6000 tonnes in 2003!
- Hunger is not inevitable; it is the result of injustice.
- We all need a farmer three times a day. Now it is the 400 million people in Africa—mainly dependent on agriculture—who are caught in the cycle of poverty. They need a new commitment to smallholder agriculture in Africa.
Eric Hazard heads Oxfam’s GROW campaign in West Africa.
A version of this blog was originally published at politicsofpoverty.oxfamamerica.org