If the African continent is to sustain the current momentum of improved Gross Domestic Product (GDP), African leaders must strengthen and increase investment in research and development in agriculture as well as engage more women to the sector.
Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg Director, African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) gave the advice while speaking at the 5th National Conference/ Exhibition and Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Nigerian Women in Agricultural Research and Development (NiWARD), with the theme ‘Diversity and Inclusiveness in Agricultural Transformation’ in Abeokuta.
She said current trends already indicated growth in a positive direction with the World Bank reporting that agricultural GDP growth in Sub-Saharan Africa has accelerated from 2.3 per cent per year in the 1980s to 3.8 per cent per year, from 2000 to 2005.
She added that the African Development Bank (AfDB), has identified agriculture as the continent’s second largest industrial sector by value, while McKinsey Global study estimated that agriculture in Africa would grow by six per cent, per year until 2030.
She, thereby, advised Africans to decide whether increased food production would be part of an agriculture that followed previous paths of extraction to the export of Africa’s natural resources.
She stated further that the fertility of African soils and the continued threat of the extraction and appropriation of resources did not build much prosperity for the continent.
Dr. Rutenberg, however, said strengthening African agriculture would have significant economic impact that reaches majority of the population, stressing that Africa was at the moment in history, yet to decide to build an agricultural sector that would not only feed its people, but could lift majority of Africans out of poverty because agriculture had been positioned to be a major driver of Africa’s economic growth.
She also noted that women make significant contributions to agricultural production, but do not get as much recognition and opportunities to influence policy and decision-making, stressing that there was need for greater efforts, aimed at making the agricultural sector more gender-responsive.
She called for concerted action from several actors, saying this could lead to the birth of inclusive agricultural value chains, as a key agenda.
Speaking further, she said AWARD had contributed positively towards the inclusive agricultural transformation through AWARD Fellowships, a career development programme, that had reached 465 fellows and 397 unique mentors (of whom 46 per cent were men) from 16 Sub-Saharan African countries.
The Kenyan-born AWARD Director commended NiWARD for being a shining example to many African countries thereby highlighted the programme’s Phase III Strategy (2017-2022), to include seeking to have capable, confident and influential African women scientists, to lead critical advances and innovations in agricultural research and development.
Other strategies are; seeking to support African agricultural research and development institutions that would prioritise and embrace gender-responsive agricultural research in both policy and practice, as well as working towards creating an enabling environment, by ensuring that gender responsiveness became an embedded cultural norm and practice.
In his presentation, Professor Ololade Enikuomehin, Acting Vice-Chancellor, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, (FUNAAB), affirmed that agriculture had become a mainstay of the nation’s economy and that the future of Nigeria depends largely on agriculture.
He opined that for this to become a reality and properly harnessed, the pivotal role of the women in agriculture should be appreciated.
According to him, “Women have a vital role to play in the agricultural activities, as most of these activities are done by women. We would like you to encourage more women to subscribe to courses in agriculture”
Professor Enikuomehin who was represented by the Director, Centre for Excellence in Agricultural Development and Sustainable Environment (CEADESE) of the University, Professor Okanlawon Onagbesan, enjoined all stakeholders to work together in ensuring that the full potentials of the country were realised by engaging in full agriculture.