Daily Management Review

Taking care of our farmers in Africa


With almost 80% of the world’s farmers still following, essentially, the same method as our forefathers some 10,000 ago. It is important to address their key vulnerabilities so as to make them resilient towards them.

Taking care of our farmers in Africa
Yesterday’s science fiction is today’s reality. While irrigation drones, artificial meat, vertical farms and indoor aquaculture may have been in the realm of yesterday’s science fiction, it is for real in many places all over the world. Although food production has gone all hi-tech, the vast majority of the world’s farmers though still rely on the rains for the harvest of their crops. Their livelihood is still dependent on Mother Nature’s whims and fancies. More than 80% of our agricultural lands are rain fed and their harvest rain dependent, just as it was some 10,000 years ago.
At the second International Conference on Nutrition the Pope was loud and clear:
“God forgives always; men, sometimes; the Earth, never. Mother Nature can be rough – and she’s getting rougher as our planet’s climate changes.”

Farming is still a critical economic activity for many countries. The livelihood of 2.5 billion depend on it. The agricultural sector accounts for almost 30% of national GDPs for countries such as Ethiopia, Burundi, Mozambique, Chad, Burkina Faso, Niger, etc.

In case of natural calamities the loss and damage to livestock, crops, forestry and fisheries can be as much as 22% of the total amount of damage that had occurred between 2003 and 2013.  Natural calamities though are only one kind of danger that threatens food security. Manmade disasters are no less of a problem. Conflicts, wars, internal strife have only aggravated the problem. Especially so, since these are typically applicable to 75% of the word’s poor.

In order to properly address this problem, The United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) will be taking this issue to the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, which will be held from the 14th of March to the 18th of March 2015. Developments in the agricultural sector that factors in various aspects of risks be in natural or manmade, will act as basic building blocks for enhanced resilience to natural as well as manmade disasters.

Risk factors should be addressed at the grass root level itself. There has to be a legal and a regulatory framework that handles crisis management. It is critical, that risks are systematically factored in, in the management of fisheries, agriculture and forestry. Proactive guidelines for disaster management is also key. In 2011, Somalia faced famine, and although the global community received early warning signs, it reacted either too slowly or not at all.

Farmers must be compulsorily taught the benefits of improved agricultural technologies which provide much needed nourishments as well as boost production. Establishment of field schools that provides and acts as a base for best known practices, introducing agroforestry and conservation agriculture, are some of the methods that farmers can use so as to partially contain risks of natural disaster.

A state of prepared readiness in case of natural disasters will also go a long way to ensure minimal damage to our food production sector. In 2013, when typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, in spite of the massive damage it left in its wake, there was little or no loss of life to farmers, thanks to their preparedness and timely support and action.

With agriculture still being the bedrock of industries in many developing countries, resilience to disasters is key. The development agenda in a post-2015 world should be the hard-wiring of resilience into the agricultural community and industry.