The AGRF 2023 Summit: A Panacea for African Agricultural Glitches?

The AGRF 2023 Summit
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The Swahili old adage “Mgeni njoo mwenyeji apone,” literally translating, Let the guest come so that the host may benefit, kept my mind busy as I was trying to figure out some senses out of the Africa Food Systems Forum 2023 Summit (The AGRF 2023 Summit) to be hosted in Dar es Salaam Tanzania early September 2023.

Going by the summit’s theme, Recover, Regenerate, Act:  Africa’s Solutions to Food Systems Transformation, I never ceased evaluating how Africa’s road, Tanzania in particular, towards improved agriculture and food security has been bumpy, risky and full of challenges, paradoxically this is not due to lack of policies and plans, we are famed for drafting many good policies, but the main challenge is turning the excellent rhetoric plans and strategies into actual practices.

For instance, the National Agriculture Policy 2013 (NAP 2013) aspires to develop an efficient, competitive, and profitable agricultural industry to improve Tanzanians’ livelihood and attain broad-based economic growth and poverty alleviation. It deliberately points out, “The importance of the agricultural sector in the national economy cannot be overemphasized owing to its relationship between its performance and that of key economic indicators like GDP and employment.”

Since this relationship is there to stay for some time, it justifies the argument that any attempts to improve people’s living standards must give people attention to increased production and productivity in the agricultural sector. The Government is committed to bringing about a “green revolution” that entails a transformation of “agriculture from subsistence farming towards commercialization and modernization through crop intensification, diversification, technological advancement, and infrastructural development.”

Since the adaptation of the policy, little has been visible about what the policy seeks to pull off. Notwithstanding the realization that no significant attempt to improve the lives of the people can succeed without giving special attention to farming, the agriculture sector in Tanzania is still faced with limited access to productive and financial resources, weak infrastructure, and a lack of incentives to develop the agriculture sector.

Climate change poses significant risks of prolonged drought and unpredictable weather, threatening the livelihoods of subsistence farmers. This happens despite having about 29 million hectares suitable for irrigation. Irrigation farming coverage in 2021/2022 was 727,280.6 hectares, which was projected to rise to 822,285.6 hectares in 2022/2023 and reach 1.2 million hectares in 2025. The current area under irrigation is under 3 percent of the country’s total land suitable for irrigation agriculture. It is equal to 60.6 percent of the goal of reaching 1,200,000 hectares by 2025.

Several past projects like Kilimo Kwanza, the District Agriculture Sector Investment Project (DASIP) under the Agriculture Sector Development Program (ASDP), and the agreed framework for donor interventions to the agriculture sector haven’t added much in making agriculture the backbone of the economy in the real sense of the word.

Tanzania Gears Up on Food Systems

The AGRF 2023 Summit theme is anchored around building better food systems with youth and women at the center. The Summit public and private sector attendees are expected to engage in dialogues and re-energize commitment in the food systems conversation, focusing on regeneration as a means of wealth creation for the continent. It will seek to find catalytic solutions to grow the coordinated and large-scale action by stakeholders across multiple sectors, nourish innovations, and cultivate country solutions that wilhaven’tlate the commitments made into actionable strategies and progress on the ground, reward and recognize champions, and celebrate country pathways.

The summit is set to identify three steps needed to achieve this transformation: Recovery – a call for decisive strategies and actions to help the continent recover and rebuild its food systems following multiple crises and shocks. Regenerate – which calls for the need to regenerate the natural resources, such as soil and water, which are essential for sustainable food production, and Act – which refers to the need to take urgent action to address food systems challenges, such as climate change, food waste, and food insecurity at only seven years before the 2030 SDG deadline.

Commenting on the AGRF 2023 Summit to be hosted in Tanzania, President Samia Suluhu Hassan said, “The hosting of Africa’s Food System Forum 2023 is essential to our nation where more than 25 percent of our GDP relies on the agricultural sector. For many years, Tanzania’s agriculture was based on subsistence farming. Today, the Government of Tanzania has intentionally made it a goal to prioritize this sector to create livelihoods for our people. We are doing this through various programs borne out of our hosting and learning of the 2012 AGRF Summit and our focus on ensuring that the youth are a priority in investment and agricultural reform in our country. I hope that hosting this forum in our country is one step forward and an excellent start to achieving the results we expect in our agricultural sector”.

In addition, Tanzania, as the host of this forum, announces to the world that our country aims to become a food granary for Africa and the world in general. I want to call on the international community, partners of Africa’s Food Systems Forum, the private sector, and development partners to participate fully in the upcoming forum on developing the agricultural sector to strengthen food systems in Africa.”

Mama has said that, as a nation, we want to be the food basket for Africa and the world. Can the AGRF 2023 Summit echo the saying that let the guest come for the host to benefit? What tangible and attainable plans do we have in place for us to feed Africa? With our little resources, we could have achieved better than we have. Africa’s commitment to consistency and linkage amongst crucial sectors. This has been our main invisible challenge since the Iringa declaration, where we declared “siasa ni kilimo,” followed by “kilimo cha kufa na kupona,” and other slogans. We act fragmented without linkage and continuance.

Maybe, and I say only maybe, this AGRF 2023 Summit will be a wake-up call to start taking purposeful and consequential measures that might not be popular politically but are very meaningful technically to enhance the agriculture sector. It’s high time now we learn from Israel, which, in a short time, managed to have one of the very advanced and well-mechanized farming.

Despite challenging climatic conditions, scarce land, water shortage, and other national challenges, it has done so. These achievements are mainly attributed to the close collaboration and interaction between agricultural research extension services and growers, which promoted advanced technologies in all agricultural sectors. Maybe this time, the host will start walking the talk that the guest has come.

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Adil Seif
Adil Seif
7 months ago

1. Value addition
2. Agro based Industries
3. Big/Medium/Small Synergy System
4. Government Intervention (Subsidies)

Those 4 factors could boost our agriculture

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