Most African nations ‘still not investing enough in agriculture’

International donations to agricultural research in Africa have soared since 2005 Copyright: CIMMYT

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[YAOUNDÉ] Promises made by African leaders to increase their investment in agriculture to ten per cent of their national budgets have been met by only eight out of 53 countries, the 7th Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) Partnership Platform Meeting heard last week (23–25 March).

But annual international donations to agricultural research capacity in Africa have soared from US$25 million annually to US$120 million in the period 2005–2010.

In 2003, Africa’s leaders committed to the African Union Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security to set aside ten per cent of their national budgets for agricultural development. But, nine years on, just eight countries have fulfilled their promise, Monty Jones, executive director of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa, told the meeting.

Some countries — including Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and Rwanda — are investing more than that, Jones told SciDev.Net.

In 2005 Africa received US$25 million of international funding for agricultural research. This increased to US$120 million last year — and will increase further to US$125 million this year, Jones confirmed. He told SciDev.Net that the figure was agreed at a meeting with development partners in Switzerland earlier this year (31 January–4 February).

Jones said that, since the implementation of FARA’s Framework for Africa’s Agricultural Productivity in 2006, they have seen a "steady increase" in funding.

Many of the participants at last week’s meeting, including agricultural experts and researchers, said that the failure of many African countries to increase funding for agricultural research is harming the continent’s quest to boost its economic development.

Sunday Uheine, a member of the CAADP secretariat at Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, told the meeting that poor governance and bad leadership are "robbing the continent of the desired benefits it could accrue from research".

"What we need is a sense of urgency in translating the little research we have done into reality, so that we can achieve food sufficiency," he said.

Udensi E. Udensi, a researcher and a consultant at the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture in Nigeria, said: "To enable the dissemination of research findings, we must include the private sector and end users who are key to the success of any research. We also need to address the issues of poor communication, education and infrastructure, and be more transparent."

CAADP was set up in 2003 by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development. It aims to achieve food security and reduce poverty through four ‘pillars’, one of which centres on improving agricultural research.

To date, 24 countries and the Economic Community of West African States have signed the CAADP ‘compact’ — a blueprint for accelerating agricultural growth. Of these, 18 countries have developed their investment plans and produced their long-term investment programmes.

Jones praised countries’ commitment to the initiative. "Just eighteen months ago, only one country — Rwanda — had signed its compact."