Mixed approach holds promise to African smallholders

Freshly picked coffee berries
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  • African smallholders face challenges in increasing food production
  • A forum recommends sustainable approaches for increasing yields
  • But an expert calls for public-private partnerships to help smallholders

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[NAIROBI] Harnessing smart and sustainable approaches including planting crop varieties suitable for the right soil types and using emerging technologies could boost food production in Sub-Saharan Africa, a meeting has heard.
Experts who spoke at the Yara East Africa Annual Distributors Event held in Kenya last month (20 January) agreed that there are various impediments affecting the agricultural sector in the region and it is time to find workable solutions.
James Craske, Yara East Africa country manager, says that African countries could create better yields through better knowledge, providing crop nutrition solutions programmes to farmers while maintaining soil quality and environmental values.

“Innovation and training will enable smallholder farmers have access to world’s best technologies … to achieve food security in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

Johnston Irungu, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Kenya


Vitalis Wafula, regional agronomist at Yara, an organisation that helps farmers increase yields and sustain the environment, points out that for a long time farmers have not been accessing correct information, right input and modern technologies, which would improve harvests.
Wafula explains that capacity building and training are needed for agricultural extension officers to deliver correct services and information to farmers.
“For example, they should advise farmers on the type of fertilisers [to use], how to apply fertilsers on their farms and which crops they should plant depending on the type of soil and climate,” Wafula says.
He is urging farmers not to depend on the rain alone but dig boreholes to get water for irrigation where water is scarce and try to harvest and store rainwater for future use.
According to Wafula, African governments should create proper policies and infrastructure that will make movement of products easy for farmers, and tackle counterfeit products including fertilisers.
Johnston Irungu, director of crops, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries in Kenya, says that the agricultural sector is key to the overall economic growth and development because it contributes about 25 per cent of the country’sgross domestic products and 75 per cent of industrial raw materials.
Innovation and training will enable smallholder farmers have access to world’s best technologies … to achieve food security in Sub-Saharan Africa,” Irungu tells SciDev.Net.

He notes that most smallholders depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, adding that encouraging them to apply best farming practices could help them increase their yields, incomes and eradicate poverty.
Irungu is calling for African governments to promote investments and private-public partnerships in agriculture to boost farming.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.