Africa needs to make agriculture create wealth not just food
"We are toiling hard and the coffee does not give us good returns," she said, after reaching the processing plant where the berries from her 200 coffee trees are de-husked and the extracted beans are graded and dried ready for roasting.
On big estates, one tree can produce 10-15 kg of coffee berries a year using fertilizers and other chemicals. But these are too costly for Njeri and other small-scale farmers. Their trees on the small plots in Kirinyaga County produce just 3-5 kg.
This means that with a little help, Njeri's earnings of equivalent to $300 to $500 a year could be doubled.
It is a story repeated across Africa, where export crops like coffee, tea, cotton and cocoa are often produced by smallholders whose incomes cannot both support families and pay for products to improve harvests. Many smallholders are reduced to growing food staples, adding to Africa's farming inefficiency.
"Africa has to move away from agriculture for food in the stomach to agriculture for wealth into the economy and into the pockets of farmers," said Martin Bwalya, the head of The Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), an African Union (AU) initiative.
Experts say that this needs action from governments and others to invest in research to produce higher-yielding crop varieties, improve marketing and add more value to produce instead of exporting raw commodities from which others profit.
Bwalya's CAADP has led a drive for change, but progress has been slow. Under a CAADP initiative, African presidents committed in 2003 to lift annual agriculture funding to 10 percent of their budgets.
More than a decade later and only eight of the AU's 54 nations have reached and maintained that goal, although some others are improving. Bwalya said 40 nations now devoted 5-6 percent of their budgets to farming, up from just 3 percent.
Value at Home
Investing more could yield significant returns. In Kenya, farming accounts for nearly a quarter of national output, a common figure across the continent. As agriculture is also a huge employer of Africa's roughly 1 billion people, supporting farms, which are mostly small, helps many people.
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