Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"NICK BEGGINGS"... MY TWO CENTS ON THE STATE OF AFRICAN AGRICULTURE



Back in the day when I was in a boarding primary school, at about ten years old, there were always children known for "begging". Many times they got shunned by the other kids. It was worse for those who were known for begging food. We coined a term called Nick Begging’s,and no one would ask you for food if you said that before you started eating. With time, and continuous shunning, many of them stopped begging.

That becomes the basis for my post today on the state of African Agriculture and the need for us to learn to be Proud.

In the early 80's several African countries were fully sufficient in terms of food security, and even exporting to other countries.

Kenya & Zimbabwe are countries that now, 2 decades later, are on the brink of a famished economy.

Where did we go wrong?

This afternoon I had an Interview with Dr Namamga Ngogi, the President of AGRA (Alliance for a green revolution) , snd it triggered my thoughts on why this continent with a rich and beautiful heritage remain s a beggar, who seems to be content with his situation.

I am extremely passionate about African Agriculture because I believe in the sustainability it offers. But how can we call ourselves an Agricultural economy when the very backbone of this country goes by one meal a day?

What happened to the "breadbasket" of the East African Region?

We ignored the very details that provide wealth.
We ignored the need to replenish the very soil that feeds us.
We ignored the essence of value addition
We ignored the fact that we needed to move on from Rudimentary to commercial Agriculture.

It is our Problem; we turned our continent to be a beggar.

A beggar does not choose. He cannot come to the decision table at his own terms; he eats the crumbs from under the table and say's "Thank you"

It is up to us to fix it.

The G8 summit "created time" to address the Global food crisis, and attempted to strike the intricate balance between food aid and investments into countries worst hit by the crisis, and maybe something positive may come out of these commitments.

The G8 leaders have been made to feel that it is only human to assist an ailing country, but I believe that Africa needs to begin being told "Nick Begging’s".
Ben Hecht, a winning writer once said " I know that a man who shows me his wealth is like the beggar who shows me his poverty; they are both looking for alms from me, the rich man for the alms of my envy, the poor man for the alms of my guilt.

The quote was not in reference to Africa, but I hope this quote makes you begin to question the state of affairs, as Africans wait in the aisles for falling crumbs.

The G8 will have to tackle the challenge of Food Aid Vs Investment into Agriculture. Aid may be necessary in short term. But we must also realise that wealthy countries do not owe it to us to feed us.

African leaders created talk shop, and we still live in it. Declaration after declaration after declaration, and Kenya is now giving 8% of its annual budget to a sector that contributes 25% of its GDP. Where are our priorities? Let's learn from Malawi, a country that got tired of begging and looked within itself to turn the sector around. The government committed itself to assisting the small scale farmers with inputs, fertilizer, education and a constant effort towards Agri- business.

Should the same be played out in Kenya, 70% of Kenya's 40 million people will receive a life line, I like to call that sustainability.

But there seems to be commitment issues spread out across Africa.

Africa, Where is our Pride?

Are our leaders too greedy to think about those that put them in power? Or do they not have the capacity to give the fishing rod to its electorate? Are our leaders beyond accountability?

We know the answers to these questions that shame the African continent every day. I hope, that our shame will bite at us until we are bold enough to say Enough is Enough.

I will not take you through what we, as a continent must do to get our act together, because we know what should be done.

But until pride becomes part of our DNA, we will forever live in Poverty, and as it has been said before; Poverty is a bag with a hole at the bottom.

5 comments:

  1. we really ought to try GMOs read somewhere we harvest an average of a tonne an acre in the US of A they manage 10- 15 tonnes of course with the jokes of leaders we have it will continue being a never ending cycle.

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  2. Good piece Terry. I suspect global warming and shifting weather patterns are mostly to blame. This year the rains have failed for the fourth year in a row due to destruction of the mau catchment. Politics aside we really must embark on radical afforestation else all the fertilizers, GMOs and irrigation wont be effective. Sam

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  3. @ Anon and Sam, Thanks, though I have only scratched the surface.

    I believe Over reliance on rain fed Agriculture may be our downfall if our governments don't prioritize.I understand though the Ministry of Agriculture is rolling out an irrigation infrastructure before the end of this year. This will be critical in the shape our economy takes.I have before reported on grass root solutions like a certain pump(moneymaker pump) which farmers can use to bring water closer to their crops, either from bore holes or rivers, it's affordable and initiatives like this that tarfet the grass roots should be supported. Incentives or otherwise.The "Malawi Miracle" as it has been described may be a learning experience for us. Our country may not be able to freely discribute 2 bags of fertlizer per household for now..but we do have an advantage over Malawi & Countries like Ethiopia which did get a great harvest after taking on the incentives channel but had no infrastructure to support the farmers with market acccess. products..on the debatable issue of GMO's , i think before we get there we can first take advantage of locally available drought resistant crops as well as work towards greater production of organic fertilizer as the world goes green:-).. ..Thanks for dropping by my blog, I appreciate your comments.

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  4. I look forward to a piece on the the "Malawi Miracle" as well as the endemic water problem in Nairobi vis a vis sinking boreholes as a viable solution in light of dropping water tables. Perhaps the exploration of nuclear power plants will reduce over-reliance on hydroelectric dams and spur the economy with lowered cost of power and manufacturing akin to petroleum. Smooz

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