By Anyway Yotamu in Harare.
The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), which operates in 11 countries of this continent and promotes agricultural transformation to increase the income of producers and improve food security, identified Brazil’s tropical agriculture model and its leadership in the export of soy and meat, soil recovery and reforestation, as possible areas for cooperation between Latin America and the Caribbean and Africa.
The proposal was made by Fadel Ndiame, vice president of AGRA, during his participation in the International Tropical Agriculture Week, organized by the Brazilian Agricultural Research Company (Embrapa) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) to share the experience of researchers and entrepreneurs in the sustainable use of technologies for the adaptation of agriculture to the climate and environmental conditions of the tropics.
It was in this spirit that the representative of AGRA, an organization founded in 2006 under the leadership of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and which seeks to boost an inclusive agricultural transformation in Africa by increasing income and improving the food security of 30 million agricultural households in 11 countries, expressed interest in establishing South-South Cooperation with Latin America and the Caribbean, especially in terms of Brazil’s tropical agriculture model, soil recovery and reforestation systems and its leadership as a meat and soy exporter, among other areas.
“We are very interested in exploring opportunities for South-South Cooperation to recover millions of hectares of acid soils, and in also analyzing different development models, including Brazil’s tropical system, which is very different from ours. We are interested in exchanging knowledge with Brazil and learning about how the country became one of the top five food exporters, especially in the meat and soybean sectors. Furthermore, it is important that we analyze the opportunities to address the issue of reforestation, land rehabilitation and ecosystem services”, explained Mr. Ndiame, a sociologist with more than 30 years of experience in agriculture and economic development policies and programs.
The African leader also identified, as another area for collaboration, the experience of EMBRAPA in developing research in the Cerrado, a tropical savanna with the greatest biodiversity in the world (5% of the animals and plants of the entire planet) and the second largest biome (ecosystems with similar climate, fauna and flora) in Brazil.
The Cerrado is also an important source of water for the country, and is home to the main springs that feed eight of the twelve hydrographic regions of Brazil. In addition, this biome features soils capable of storing a large amount of carbon, and although they have a naturally low fertility, technological advances have increased their productivity for agriculture and livestock.
The International Tropical Agriculture Week also gathered different contributions geared towards consolidating the position of the Americas in preparation for the United Nations Food Systems Summit, scheduled for the end of September in New York.
Ndiame said that the Summit will be a major step forward to promote sustainability and healthier diets, although in his view, each country and continent will have to define its own route to achieve a more sustainable food system.
Agriculture in Africa
At the meeting, the vice president of AGRA described the fundamental role played by agriculture in the economy of African countries. He went on to explain that the sector employs between 60 and 80% of the population, that is, 54% of the active population of the continent, and that smallholder farmers produce about 80% of the food.
He also mentioned that in 2020, in spite of the Covid-19 pandemic, the sector grew by 5%. However, he warned about the importance of redoubling efforts in the face of the 250 million people in Africa who are currently undernourished, although indicators have shown a downward trend in the malnourishment indexes of various countries.
“By 2050, one of our objectives is to increase food production by around 350%, produce better, more, and in a sustainable manner; this is our motto” he added.
He also stated that in order to achieve this goal, it is necessary to increase public investment, strengthen institutional frameworks, develop more robust regulations and policies, improve infrastructure, support research and innovation, ensure access to technologies and digitalization to optimize productivity, and attract the youth to agricultural activity.
“We face this and many other challenges and threats, including climate change and drought, which significantly affect small producers, as well as issues regarding land degradation, access to financing, high transaction costs associated with services, infrastructure problems and an often weakened policy framework. With digitalization and investments in infrastructure and technologies, we believe that Africa could take a significant leap forward, by learning from and sharing experiences with other countries, in order to achieve South-South Cooperation and ensure the long overdue growth of the African continent” said Ndiame.
The AGRA leader concluded by assuring that one of Africa’s main opportunities to systemically transform agriculture lies in its land extension. In this sense, he stated that “we still have empty lands, and an adequate environment to promote production”, and mentioned the “unexploited resources, water resources and significant deposits of key nutrients, such as potassium, phosphate and zinc, which could be used for this transformation”.