The president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development claims that, by focusing on farming, Africa has the potential to feed not only itself but the rest of the world.frequent drought.
But this is precisely the claim made by Kanayo Nwanze, the president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (Ifad), a specialised agency of the UN. Nwanze gave a forceful intervention at Monday’s emergency meeting in Rome to discuss the crisis in east Africa, where, according to the UN, an estimated 11.6 million people need humanitarian assistance in Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti.
Nwanze drew a sharp contrast between Gansu province, in northwest China, and parts of Africa that cannot feed itself. He said like many parts of the world, Gansu suffers from frequent drought, limited water for irrigation and severe soil erosion. Yet despite the weather and the harsh environment, the farmers in the Gansu programme area are feeding themselves and increasing their incomes.
“I met one farmer whose income had risen from only $2 (£1.20) a day in 2006 to $35 a day last year,” he exclaimed.
So when asked why this could be done in China but not Africa, Nwanze said the vital difference was government policy.
“What I saw in Gansu was the result of government policy to invest in rural areas and to reduce the gap between the rural and the urban and stem migration,” he said in a telephone interview. “It has a very harsh environment, it has only 300 millimetres of rain annually, compared to parts of the Sahel which gets 400-600 millimetres, but the government has invested in roads and electricity. We found a community willing to transform their lives by harvesting rainwater, using biogas, terracing mountain slopes. There are crops for livestock, they are growing vegetables, wheat and maize, and generating income that allows them to build resilience.”