African leaders have recognised that growth in agriculture is the most effective strategy for reducing poverty, increasing food security, creating jobs and promoting overall economic growth as the majority of Africa's population lives in rural areas, with at least 70 per cent of the workforce engaged in agriculture. The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) Agency, through its flagship agricultural development programme CAADP has provided new impetus for accelerated economic growth in Africa in the last ten years.
CAADP which is short for the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme is an African Union initiative established in 2003 to accelerate agricultural growth, improve food security, nutrition, and increase incomes in Africa's largely farm- based economies. It does this by raising agricultural productivity by at least six per cent per year and encourages public investment in agriculture.
In the last ten years of CAADP implementation, Africa's agricultural sector has grown by 3.2 per cent a year. Although this is a moderate figure, it is the highest average for the last four decades and is beginning to show signs of improving the lives of poor people. This growth can be attributed partly to CAADP's emphasis on increasing productivity as well as private-public investment in the agriculture sector.
Since 2003, thirty countries have signed up to the CAADP Compact and eight have met or exceeded the 10 per cent target of annual budget allocation to agriculture. These include Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Malawi, Mali, Niger and Senegal. The Compact is a critical rallying point in mobilising a common vision to define and support agricultural-led development.
Malawi, for example, surpassed by far the goal of 10 per cent agricultural spending, according to Dr Jeffrey Luhanga, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture.
"During the financial year 2012 and 2013, the agricultural sector was allocated as high as 19 per cent of the national budget surpassing the 10 per cent minimum requirement by CAADP Malawi has also been registering annual agricultural sector growth rate in the ranges of 7 per cent to 8 per cent. This is expected to reduce food insecurity and poverty", Dr Luhanga says.
Yet the positive gains made by CAADP over the past ten years have been coupled with increased uncertainty in agricultural markets. The food crisis, which pushed international food prices to triple their 2003 levels, peaked...