It feels good to be back home from the Mandela Washington Fellowship program after 6 weeks of training on Civic Leadership at the Appalachian State University, Boone North Carolina which involved civic engagement, community service, volunteerism just to name a few; we even volunteered in an organic farm on Mandela Day, we played games with children at the Western Youth Network. But it wasn’t just work work work, we had fun too! Like participating in the 4th of July celebration, watched the Horn in the West Play It’s been a life changing experience for me, for 24 other fellows I was at the institute with, as well as for the farmers I work with. I remember just like yesterday when I was preparing for the program, trying to figure out what I expected from the program. I knew I was going to a rural community so one thing was inevitable; farm work. The shock we all received as to what a rural community was in the States and what a rural community is back home is story for another day!
Well to better understand what I wanted from the program I wanted to be versed with the challenges we faced with the agric sector and what plans policy makers had for my continent. I came across this publication by the African Development Bank, Feed Africa which talks about the strategic agricultural transformation in Africa between 2016-2025. It is a beautiful read and it’s easy to relate with I recommend you have a look at. They have good facts and figures, enough to trigger anyone to put on their thinking cap and start working on how to change the narratives. As per the publication, untapped agricultural potential has contributed to persistent poverty and deteriorating food security resulting in a projected increase in the number of undernourished people from approximately 240 million in 2015 to approximately 320m in 2025. However, the continent is experiencing a frightful increased dependency on imports; which are expected to grow from US $35bn in 2015 to over US $ 110bn in 2025.
Looking at the figures you will agree with me there is a huge opportunity; an opportunity created by increased food demand and changing consumption habits. An opportunity for increased in household income and employment opportunities if only we will look beyond the challenges plaguing our agric sector. Opportunities for stakeholders to engage in sustainable economic development activities through inclusive agribusinesses. For example, prolong rainy or dry season caused by climate change and variability gives room for green house production which ensures production during off season. Transforming and preservation opens doors to value addition. More so, opportunities for stakeholders to engage in diversification and market driven production.
It is common knowledge of the extent to which African economies rely on agriculture, and all we hear are the figures we have become so accustomed to that we nod each time they are mentioned. We need to change the narratives! It takes collective effort from all stakeholders involve. They need to be equipped with the capacity to contribute to inclusive agriculture; to look beyond the challenges and grasp the opportunities presented to us by these challenges.
Although I was worried when I got placed in a rural community for the Yali experience (the Appalachian mountains??!!) but it turned out to be the best thing that happened to me. Engaging with organizations like the Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture exposed me to the many opportunities I could tap from and replicate in my rural community such as the community supported agriculture scheme. As part of the fellowship requirement, we are expected to come up with an Action Plan to implement upon our return. The community supported agriculture is one of the things I plan to incorporate in our work at Green Farmlands in which we will have small scale producers of vegetables supply to consumers directly a selected number of vegetables each week.
It may seem hard but we can’t give up on our economy’s backbone. Agriculture has the potential to take us to that next stage; where we dream to be. If Martin Luther had a dream that came to reality, so can our dream of the African we want come to pass. What is your dream for the agricultural sector in Africa?