By Zainab Joaque
Director of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) has warned that global food production must increase at least by 70 per cent or some 30 million people in the world, who need emergency food aid in the horn of Africa, would suffer.
Mr. Michael Hailu last week expressed these concerns at the International Conference on Innovations in Extension and Advisory Services, in Nairobi, Kenya and observed that such unfortunate developments have resultedin violent conflict in that part of the world.
He added: “Endemic poverty and soaring food prices makes it worse. We are expecting seven billion people by 2050 and faced with such a population growth, global food production must increase.”
Mr. Hailu noted that seventy-five percent of the world’s poor lives in rural areas and most of them depend on agriculture for their livelihood, adding that any effort to fight poverty would have to start with agriculture.
According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) food security means that all people at all times have physical, social, economic access to safe and nutritious food that meet their lively needs.
Meanwhile, studies, he said, have shown that agriculture growth reduces poverty by twice the rate of growth in other sectors.Small holder farmers, particularly womenproduce the bulk of food in developing countries often under difficult circumstances.
The CTA Director urged government and donors to redouble their efforts to boost production for small holder farmers if they must reverse the persistent food insecurity in the world.
“Global food prices remain high and volatile with disastrous consequences for many people.In a recent report the World Bank says food price index remains at 90% higher than that of September 2011.As you can see it is not going down,” he told the conference.
The gathering, which summoned journalists and policy makers across the continent to discuss agriculture and food security on the continent, also discussed the need of tackling issues of climate change that threaten livelihoods of productivity. The confab found out that for millions of farmers, especially in Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific, changing weather patterns are likely to reduce produce.
Mr. Hailu said: “The frequency of extreme weather events, floods, drought is increasing as a result of climate change and the consequence is already proving disastrous for many countries.The recent threat in Thailand reminds us of this challenge”.
Meanwhile another major challenge,Mr. Hailu highlighted,was rural unemployment, wherein young people desert the countryside and leave for the city in search of work. He urged government officials to see the need in finding ways of creating better jobs in agriculture and rural enterprise.
“We need to make the countryside more attractive for young people and provide better educational opportunity and infrastructure,” he suggested.
However, the session found out that extension and rural advisory services have a key role to play in tackling all these challenges but task would be to promote agricultural practices that increase productivity.
The director with vast knowledge in in contemporary agric researches called on governments and donors to recognize the fact that agricultural growth requires significant increase in investment.
According to him extension systems in many countries have moved from a centrally controlled top model to where many different organizations were providing knowledge and advise to farmers. To this, reforms of extension services have been aimed at making them pluralistic, demand driven, and cost efficient and sustainable.
He concluded by saying that:“The successes and impacts of these changes have to be documented.This conference serves as an excellent opportunity for us to reflect on the lessons learnt from a wide range of experiences in many different countries.We also will be assessing the significant role information technology plays in supporting extension and advisory services. ICTs such as mobile phones are helping farmers increase production, find a market for their produce and gainaccess to knowledge and technology.”
The conference attracted about 400 participants from 75 countries across the world, which includes extension practitioners from public, private and civil society organizations including representatives of farmers’ organizations and commodity associations, policy makers, the research and development community, academia, processors, traders, donors, financial institutions and the media. These people will be discussing over four days on how extension and advisory services can be revitalized and redesigned so that they can better serve small holder farmers to contribute to fight against poverty. The thematic issues are Policy, capacity Development, Tools and Approaches and Learning networks. The conference ended last Friday 18th November 2011.