COMESA spells out challenges of African farmers


By nation Reporter

THE Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) says agriculture has remained the main stay of African economies and livelihoods of its citizens despite enormous challenges that the sector is facing.

Speaking during the signing of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) yesterday, COMESA secretary general Sindiso Ngwenya noted that efforts of addressing agricultural productivity and trade in Africa have experienced daunting challenges.

Mr. Ngwenya cited the negative publicity against new technologies such as modern biotechnology as being among the challenges which have sent mixed signals to policy- makers, farmers and consumers.

He said as a result of such negativity, the development had continued to undermine meaningful efforts to secure Africa’s future through productivity-enhancing technological interventions.

He said attempts to engage the public and policy-makers on awareness-raising efforts regarding the merits and the promise of modern biotechnology in impacting lives and livelihoods in Africa, had not fared well because of what seemed to be a wrong model approach.

He said as a result of the challenges that bordered on change of mind-set, there was need for COMESA and its cooperating partners to change their approach in soliciting for enhanced productivity in the agriculture sector.

“Therefore, there has to be a paradigm shift on how COMESA, AATF and other actors engage the public and policy-makers on awareness-raising efforts regarding the merits and the promise of modern technology.

“A farmer-centred bottom-up approach should underpin meaningful strategies and achievable outcomes. Such bottom-up approaches in technology dissemination and adoption have proven successful in other regions of the world such as in China, Asia, and South East Asia and should be emulated,” Mr. Ngwenya said.

He said there was need for a broad-based view that addressed entire commodity value-chains from production, processing to markets and attendant gender considerations when developing viable public engagement strategies. And AATF executive director Dennis Kyetere said for AATF, the decision on what technology to bring to farmers was formed by the kind of constraints the farmers were facing and on the on-going efforts in addressing them.

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