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Report calls for training of smallholder farmers

Experts say most farmers in Africa rely on obsolete knowledge and skills to produce food crops

Smallholder farmers in Africa still lack sufficient production skills because of lack of training, a new report launched yesterday at African Green Revolution Forum in Nairobi.

The Status of Agriculture in Africa report said while stakeholders including policy makers, has undergone one or two forms of training, smallholder farmers have always been left on their own mainly relying on obsolete traditional knowledge produce goods.

The report raises a number of issues with investments allocated to agricultural research and extension services saying that whereas the funding has fallen when needed most, smallholder farmers are usually not factored. The report urges governments to train at least 20 farmers every year and attach extension officers to follow up on them for five years to assess their progress.

Sustainability “Investments allocated to agricultural research and extension services have fallen when they are needed most. At a time when climate change is producing intense demand for crop varieties and other innovations that can help farmers adapt, investments are not keeping up,” the report says.

The report adds that despite the unprecedented decade of impressive growth across the continent, much more remains to be done to sustain the gains.

“However, the good news is that a vibrant agricultural sector, while not the solution to our problems, will clearly promote food security and economic opportunities for all Africans,” Namanga Ngong, one of the authors and chairman, Board of Trustees, African Fertiliser and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP).

The report shows that, Africa would require up to $400 billion (Sh40 trillion) over the next 10 years in public and private sector investments in all aspects of food production, processing, marketing and transport. It also points out that, while on some 65 per cent of Africa’s farmable lands, soils lack necessary nutrients, many farmers lack the inputs and technical knowledge to revive them.

Improved varieties “That is costing African farmers at least US $68 million (Sh6.8 billion) in lost income opportunities.

For example, African farmers cultivating new, improved varieties of maize and other crops see only a 28 per cent jump in yields on average while farmers in Asia get 88 per cent increase,” said David Ameyaw, one of the authors and Head of Strategy, Monitoring and Evaluation at the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

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