By Silvia Nyambura
Between the year 2010 and 2050, the global demand for food is expected to increase by 60 percent. In Sub Sahara Africa alone, the demand for food is recorded at 178 percent compared to India’s 89 percent and China’s 31 percent. Currently, Africa spends more than USD 40 billion every year on food imports, if that money was invested in production instead, the continent would be food independent. The question in the region therefore remains can we increase agricultural productivity sustainably to meet the food demand challenge?
In Uganda, 80 percent of the population is engaged in agriculture and related industries with food productivity increasing by 2.65 percent amidst a rapidly growing population at 3.5 percent. Some of the biggest challenges facing the sector include declining soil fertility and lack of policies to ensure accessibility to affordable farm inputs.
According to the Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture at the African Union (AU) Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, it is commendable that Uganda has formulated a credible Agriculture Sector Development Strategy and Investment Plan. This plan which is already under implementation aims at advancing the agricultural transformation agenda.
“Uganda is one of the AU member states to have signed the Country Compact for the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), a framework for increasing agricultural production and productivity, improving food and nutrition security and eradicating poverty,” she said.
Tumusiime was speaking on the third day of a symposium held in the week ending 11th July 2014 at the Nile Resort Jinja to celebrate 100 years of Dr. Norman Borlaug who died in 2009. Borlaug is the former president of the Sasakawa Africa Association and an eminent personality in agricultural research and development in Africa, Latin America and Asia.
“The AU recognizes the remarkable work of the Sasakawa Foundation particularly in supporting and promoting crop productivity enhancement, post harvest loss reduction and agro-processing as well as public private partnerships and market access. The association has also placed importance on small holder farmers with relevant supportive policies for value chain development,” she added.
Further Tumusiime recognized Dr. Borlaug’s achievements in the use of quality seed, fertilizer, appropriate technologies and irrigation to prevent hunger and poverty globally. “One has reason to believe what has been said by some that Dr. Borlaug has saved more lives than any other person who has ever lived,” she noted.
The Sasakawa Association which has been in Uganda since 1996 has contributed greatly to the improvement of rural livelihoods. Julie Borlaug the Associate Director for External Relations at the Norman Borlaug Institute for international Agriculture based in the USA said “What we do with all our projects is identify a value chain in agriculture that could ramp up quickly and that could be lucrative for the farmer. We then teach the farmer all the basics from the point of production to business management, market access and so on.”
The Vice President of Uganda Edward Ssekandi in his keynote speech at the event lauded Borlaug’s contribution to Uganda’s economy through the Sasakawa Association. He urged the organization’s current leadership to carry on the ideals set by the late doctor.
“The current leadership of this organization should ensure productivity is increased in maize, bean and rice production which are not only staple foods in large parts of Africa but also sources of household incomes. You should also go a step further to improve on agro-dealer extension training for food stockists as well as collaborate with other stakeholders in the industry,” he said.
Ssekandi noted as per Dr. Borlaug’s dying wish phrased ‘Take it to the Farmer’, liberating the rural farmers by enabling them to improve their welfare will go a long way in empowering a large section of humanity.