Irrigation the key to food security: report
Supporting more farmers to access and use irrigation systems and technologies remains crucial to food security targets across the continent, a new report says.
Food production across many African countries still relies on rain-fed agriculture, leaving farmers and rural communities vulnerable to erratic rainfall and extreme climate conditions.
The report titled Water-wise: Smart irrigation strategies for Africa launched this week highlights success stories from six African countries, among them Kenya, where greater levels of irrigation have improved harvests and incomes for farmers.
Analysing best practices from Kenya, Ethiopia, Mali, Morocco, Niger and South Africa, the report found that yields from irrigated crops can be double or more as compared to rain-fed yields.
“We must elevate irrigation to a top policy priority as a key ingredient to ensure the continent’s food security in the face of more extreme weather conditions. We need to scale up new models that put emphasis on farmer-led irrigation to enhance household level resilience to shocks,” said Dr Agnes Kalibata, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (Agra) president.
Just six per cent of cultivated land is currently irrigated in Africa, compared to 14 per cent in Latin America and 37 per cent in Asia.
“Dedicated, effective government institutions and significant increase in public investment for irrigation programmes are critical,” said Dr Ousmane Badiane, Malabo Montpellier Panel co-chair and Africa director for the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
In Niger, one of the countries with the fastest pace of irrigation expansion, up to 20 per cent of agricultural gross domestic product (GDP) is generated through irrigated agriculture.
“Two things need to come together in smart irrigation: first, robust technology that saves water and energy and can be sustained locally, and second, sound and fair local organisations with women and men farmers in the lead of their irrigation,” said Prof Joachim von Braun, director of the Centre for Development Research at Bonn University, Germany.
Macadamia growing gets 7,000 seedlings county boost
Farmers in Taita Taveta have received 7,000 macadamia seedlings as the county government moves to boost growing of the cash crop.
Governor Granton Samboja said the project will turn around the financial status of the region, which previously lacked a cash crop.
“We will also give apple mango and yellow passion seedlings to residents of the lower areas like Mwaroko to promote diversity among farmers who rely on maize and bean crops,” the governor added. Mr Samboja said each household is expected to receive 10 macadamia seedlings, which will earn them an income of about 180,000 annually.
“Each macadamia tree can produce up to 100kg per season. A kilo is now selling at Sh180,” said Samboja.
Experts call for harmonisation of seed regulations across the continent
Agriculturalists, policy formulators, trade and technology transfer specialists have called for speedy identification and removal of bottlenecks that delay implementation of harmonised seed regulations in Africa.
Change of seed legislations, according to them, will make it easier for new developed varieties and technologies to be quickly and easily disseminated to farming communities.
The harmonised seed regulations will also cut the unnecessarily lengthy policy procedures that have to be followed before the new varieties are released to farmers, and effectively boost regional trade in seed and agriculture produce.
“There is an urgent need to push for harmonisation of the current policies, regulations and protocols through regional dialogues and consultations,” said Nnenna Nwabufo, the Deputy Director-General of the East African Regional Hub of the African Development Bank (AfDB).
She spoke during a recent forum to develop an action plan towards implementing harmonised regulations organised by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation, together with the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa.
When implemented, the action plan will accelerate seed variety release and deployment across the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa bloc. Ms Nwabufo noted that for many new varieties, the release process takes at least two years, which is a long time to wait.
Dr Denis Kyetere, AATF’s executive director, said the implementation of these new technologies and varieties, especially those that address the dual goal of increasing agriculture productivity while ensuring responsible management of the environment as well as responding effectively to climatic changes and other variables, will enhance food security in the continent.