Jul 4, 2013, 11:58 AM
Mr Yusupha Kah, Minister of Trade, Industry and Employment, was exactly right when he said recently that increased agricultural productivity could address the food crisis that is plaguing the world at the moment. Addressing a two-day international conference on Donor Round Table for National Agricultural Investment Programme (NAIP), Mr Kah argued that food security and food self-sufficiency as well as realizing the MDGs of halving the proportion of the poor and hungry people by 2015 are dependent on sound agricultural initiatives that are proactive and sustainable. To drive home his point, he asserted: "Investing in agriculture is a key to reducing poverty and hunger in developing countries like The Gambia and it is an essential element in addressing the current food crisis."
We have always argued on this page that nobody can develop on an empty stomach; a hungry nation or people are vulnerable to manipulation and subservience. This is crystallized in the saying that a beggar has no choice. An outstanding feature of developed nations is food security; their people have enough to eat and drink and much more to keep aside for the rainy day and to give out to needy countries most of which are in Africa. Because most people from the advanced world do not have to worry about where the next meal is going to come from, they are able to concentrate on their work and are therefore more productive. But the reverse is the case in Africa where hunger is a debilitating disease that has adverse effect on productivity.
It is not as if Africans are not engaged in farming. They are, but the majority of them are subsistence farmers; unlike other parts of the world where agricultural production is highly mechanized for optimal yield. Again, farming is still regarded as an inferior activity in Africa. It is not as glamorous as a sedentary job in the corporate world. This perhaps has to do with the fact that farming is mostly manual on the continent.
Therefore on our path towards achieving food security, we would be wise to disabuse our minds of the fallacy that farming is a lowly calling meant for the flotsam and jetsam of society; or for the uneducated rural rustics. To begin with, agricultural science should be made a compulsory subject at both the junior school and the senior school levels. And there should be demonstrated practical commitment to farming by the students at both levels. In addition, students studying agricultural science at tertiary level should be given added incentives in form of scholarship and grants for specific farming projects.
The banks should also drive up the agricultural agenda by giving loans to civil servants and others who have shown real commitment to farming. Apart from giving out loans, the banks themselves should consider investing heavily in farming.
We hold that agriculture is the magic formula for Africa's rejuvenation because if we are able to feed ourselves, then we are well on our way out of poverty and dependence. It is our own way of taking full responsibility for our destiny. No amount of aid can substitute for self-reliance and responsibility.
"There is no love sincerer than the love of food."
George Bernard Shaw