The CFFO Commentary
Title: Geldof, Bono and the Potential of African Agriculture
By John Clement
May 14, 2010
Activist Irish rock stars, Bob Geldof and Bono, have been busy of late drawing the attention of Canadians towards the plight and potential of Africa. In particular, they have focused their efforts on editing the Globe and Mail newspaper to highlight the potential for lifting Africa out of poverty. To paraphrase, they see Africa as strategic to the world economy and believe the way forward involves a commitment to commerce and an investment in infrastructure and institutions.
Agriculture plays a huge role in lifting Africans out of poverty. According to information from the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CADDP), agriculture still provides livelihoods for about 60 per cent of the continent’s labour force, contributes 17 per cent of Africa’s total gross domestic product and accounts for 40 per cent of its foreign currency earnings.
But agriculture also poses a huge challenge in Africa. Farm yields have stagnated for decades. The reasons are multiple and include a continuing dependence on uncertain rainfall, nutritional deficiencies in African soils, small and dispersed domestic markets, the instability and decline of world prices for African agricultural exports, the small size of most farms, farmers’ frequent lack of organization, the lack of rural roads, neglect of the particular needs of women farmers --- who produce most of the continent’s food --- and the spread of HIV/AIDS.
To meet these challenges, Africans have launched CADDP, an agency-driven program focused on driving economic integration in Africa. It has identified four key focus areas for agricultural improvement and investment. These areas are: sustainable land and water management; market access; food supply and hunger; and agricultural research. The agency is being helped in the process through a commitment by African governments to increase public investment in agriculture by a minimum of 10 per cent of their annual budgets and to raise agricultural productivity by at least 6 per cent.
In the developed economy of Canada, we argue about how to enhance the income of farmers and fine-tune the supporting infrastructure. In the developing economy of Africa, the imperative is much more about how to provide farmers with a basic income and to build a supporting infrastructure. Both Geldof and Bono provide a useful service in their tireless advocacy about the key connections between a buoyant economy --- agricultural or otherwise --- and human development.
John Clement is the General Manager of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKNX Wingham, Ontario and is archived on the CFFO website: www.christianfarmers.org/index.html. CFFO is supported by 4,353 family farmers across Ontario.