While writing this article, I am overwhelmed at the statistical possibility of over 700 children dying of starvation before the end of this write-up: of which more than 40% of these deaths are accounted for in Africa. It is ironical to know that with this statistic, agriculture is being described as the lifeblood of Africa. Agriculture, no doubt has been instrumental to growth in Africa, employing over 70% of the workforce in Africa, generating on average 30% of Africa’s GDP. However, the continent is still faced with the problem of feeding her citizen. It is for this reason, that we must ask and address critical questions that might have contributed to the emergence of such ironic situation. First, we must discuss the challenges clogging agricultural productivity in Africa; we must also be concerned about how Africa can meet the goal of ensuring an hunger-free planet and finally, what can be done differently to achieve a sustainable planet? The major challenge clogging productivity lies in the hall of perception. The productivity of agricultural process is hinge on global perception: how well do people receive the concept of farming either in subsistent form or industrialized form. In research by Alisa Nicole Luckey on Assessing Youth Perceptions and Knowledge of Agriculture: The Impact of Participating in an AgVenture Program, her pre-test survey on high school students in Texas reflected that 54% of participants (high school students) perceived agriculture as not being important to their community. This poor perception prevalent among youths is not peculiar to Texas. In 2013, the Kenya national youth survey showed that 40.9% youths in Kenya aspired building career in service sectors while only 4.7% were interested in agricultural career: Reasons for such bizarre figure were that student shy away from agriculture because it is seen to be difficult, risky and has no monetary attraction.
We cannot achieve an hunger-free society when majority of the world population (the youth) still have a myopic or poor perception of what agriculture is about. For this reason, it is the responsibility of the government to stymie the spread of such perception. Governments must address the problem in the context of interest and awareness. Significant time, effort, and funds should be invested in implement agricultural education programs for youth. This agricultural education intervention programs should include hands-on activities designed to increase knowledge of basic agriculture-related concepts and career opportunities. The program should be implemented as extracurricular frame-work for students in high schools and tertiary institutions irrespective of career specialization. Yes! irrespective of what the student is studying at the university level. There is a need for better understanding of how to maximize the vast unused lands in Africa, there is a need for people to understand basic farming techniques; not necessarily for business purpose but as means to cultivate crops that can meet their immediate needs. They must learn about production agriculture, agricultural technologies, alternate production method and local and urban agriculture.
The literacy program should be targeted at youths in general. The implementation of the literacy program for the vast majority of youth in informal educational system, should be done through formation of local youth agricultural clubs and learning coalitions. These clubs will be responsible for sustaining a literacy program that emphasize the breadth and depth of the agricultural industry, tools and opportunities. Facilitators of the program in both institutional and club levels must be enthusiastic professionals in the industry. In addition to this, the government must develop an incentive program that supports agricultural start-ups. This incentive should guarantee easy access to capital, business friendly industry, trainings etc. However, these incentives should be provided base on thorough assessment of start-up potential for growth and existing industries business performance and technological implementation for advancement.
The second question on how Africa can meet the goal of an hunger-free planet is a key component to continuous existence of mankind. Africa must radically increase the level of technological implementations in the agriculture sector. If there is an area where Africa can show leadership, it is definitely in the agricultural sector. We might not be able to discover the next planetary body, but we definitely can initiate the science and technology that can drive growth in the agricultural industry. Why we must appreciate the level of industrialization that have permeate the agricultural industry, the agricultural industry is yet to maximize the technological revolution sweeping across different industries. Industries like the finance and health sectors are implementing concepts in data mining, data analytic and machine learning to increase their capacity for growth and development. To develop a technologically driven agricultural process, there is need for agri-business collaborations with academic institutions on agricultural centred research. Investing in research has been key to the growth and development of the technological industry. Agri-businesses must take cue from this and support agricultural research works that have the potential of extending the level of productivity in the industry. Remotely, small-scale agri-businesses in rural areas can benefit from e-platforms that share new agricultural and marketing strategies base on customers buying habit, information on most important crop consumption across demography (these information will help reduce the level of food wastage by customers). The implementation of technology in agriculture will help provide informed decisions on crops that are more consumed by certain regions. This will help drive agricultural farming that is demographically specific and meet the needs of the people in that region.
In America, the amount of food wasted in a year is sufficient to feed the six most hungry nations (Burundi, Eritrea, Comoros, East Timor, Sudan and Chad) in the world. To minimize the level of wastage accounted for in any country, we must not only address consumers irresponsible eating habit, but also we must address crop-specific production. We must strive to reduce the number of wastage that results from crops not getting to the consumers. However, since wastage cannot be totally eliminated due to stochastic behaviour of man, there is need for creation of market that purchase crops that are not edible for consumption. These crops can be processed to animal feeds or any other product that can be sold in the market.
Finally, the question on what can be done differently to achieve a sustainable planet addresses new insight. In previous paragraphs, having highlighted educational literacy programs in institutions and community agricultural clubs, technological research and development, digitization of information platform to harness information on consumer behaviour, business incentives etc., there is more that can be done differently in agricultural policies, gender balance in subsistent farming, development of strong institutions that ensures peace and justice, and climate change. Policies that supports the liberalization of farming and reduces land ownership of governments should be implemented: this will help reduce bottlenecks that arise from governmental bureaucracies. Most importantly, to increase productivity, we must address gender-role in agriculture. Statistics reflects an increasing population of women in agricultural process that are key to productivity. According to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), about 70% of agricultural workers, 80% of food producers, and 10% of those who process basic foodstuffs are women and they also undertake 60 to 90% of the rural marketing; thus making up more than two-third of the workforce in agricultural production. In West Africa, up to 80% of the labour force in all agricultural trade are female. In light of this statistics, there is need for a gender-balance that will enhance productivity and ease the agricultural burden on women.
With about 4.8 billion hectares of land (more than a third of the earth’s total land area used for agriculture) we have no reason not to achieve a hunger-free planet. At this point in our history, we must see to it that every child aspiration is not thinned by the thought of hunger. We cannot afford to lost the next generation of leaders to hunger, we cannot let our women bow to the torture we can avoid. The time to act is now! The time to end hunger is now!