FANRPAN's Dr Lindiwe Majele Sibanda Discusses the Link between African Agriculture and a Green Economy in a Reuters Commentary Piece

Green growth, as Utopian as it might seem, is in fact achievable. World leaders should recognise the important role which agriculture plays in driving progress in this area. Green growth is concerned with stimulating economic development while creating employment and managing natural resources sustainably. 

As G8 leaders prepare to meet in France this week, they can work toward two of their goals – namely, fostering global green growth and strengthening ties with Africa – by investing in African agriculture. 

Dr Sibanda is a spokesperson for Farming First and she recently shared her views with the international newswire Reuters on how agriculture can make this happen. In parallel,Farming Firsthas launched an online infographic, "The Story of Agriculture and the Green Economy",which uses empirical information to visually tell the story of how agriculture addresses critical components of a global green economy. 

Global food security should be addressed on two tiers: World leaders at the G8 summit should foster policy coherence on food security and price volatility and encourage national policymakers to put measures in place which support the poorest while also stimulating small-scale entrepreneurship among farmers. 

Agriculture: The proverbial pillar of strength 

At the UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), emphasis was placed on improving the productive capacity of people in the poorest countries. Agriculture is the backbone of most LDC economies and it is also the primary agent for alleviating, if not eradicating, the burden of poverty. The stature of agriculture should not be underestimated: it can reduce carbon emissions significantly, which translates to providing a crutch for vulnerable communities to adapt to the ubiquitous advancement of climate change in all its ramifications. 

At the 2009 annual FANRPAN Dialogue, agricultural experts discussed the theme of "The True Contribution of Agriculture to Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction in Southern African Countries" and found that its impacts are even greater than what current statistics imply.Current agriculture statistics in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) countriesfocus on the primary production of crops and livestock only, and they do not capture the backward andforward linkages of agriculture with other sectors such as domestic and external trade, industry,transport, tourism, infrastructure, energy, banking and various services. If those linkages wereaccounted for, the contribution of agriculture to the economy would be much higher than thatcurrently reflected by the official statistics. This would make it clear that a strong agricultural sectoris a powerful leverage for the whole economic and social development. 

Increased agricultural production can be accelerated through investments in partnerships, training and technology so that agricultural outputs are of a high quality and productivity is enhanced. Increasing the yields which farmers reap is predicted to be the most important way for farmers in sub-Saharan Africa to increase crop production to meet increased demand (see image below). This will ensure that communities will enjoy the benefit of better food and nutrition security, and economic activity will be accelerated through surplus produce being sold on the market and the consequent employment potential. In this way, with the help of targeted investment, the number of LDC countries will be reduced. 

World leaders should realize the benefits of breaking the poverty cycle by investing in agriculture and, in so doing, economic growth is stimulated. Such judicious investment, achieved by carefully planned public-private partnerships, will ensure that farmers have access to the information, tools and resources they need, such as irrigation andfertilizers, to assist them in working to achieve our global food security goals. 

Let's grow the green economy by putting farming first! 

Read the full Reuters article on African agriculture and the green economy
Read Farming First's "The Story of Agriculture and the Green Economy"