Africa’s smallholder farmers are critical to food security
Africa could emerge as a global breadbasket provided an enabling agricultural environment is fostered, said Paul E. Schickler, president of DuPont Pioneer, one of the world's leading agricultural businesses. Africa has vast untapped potential to boost its agricultural output if governments and other stakeholders on the continent capitalise on their nations' natural resource endowments by training smallholder farmers on improved agricultural practices and technologies.
"Africa's abundant resources are a great foundation on which to build a sustainable agricultural sector and if the correct policies are implemented there is every reason to believe that the future of food security on the continent is very bright," said Schickler during a panel discussion that aired on CNBC Africa on 20 August. "With vast tracts of arable land, excellent weather, a youthful population and some of the fastest growing economies in the world, the stars are aligned for an African agricultural revolution."
Invest in Science, Technology and People
Given that as much as 40 percent of agricultural output goes to waste1 in Africa due to inadequate transport and storage, the need for investment in science, technology and education is imperative.
"We need to think of science and technology in a broad sense that encompasses everything from the use of enhanced seed varieties to the correct agronomic skills, access to finance and even something as simple as no-till farming techniques that help keep organic matter in the ground where it is needed," said Schickler. "The other crucial thing is to adapt global technology to local needs. Although science provides universal answers, solutions must be local so as to account for variations in climate, soils, cultural traditions and distribution infrastructure."
Investing in South African Farmers
Pioneer has committed R20 million (South African Rand) over five years to assist smallholder farmer development in South Africa. In November 2012, Pioneer established a collaborative agreement with the Limpopo Department of Agriculture (LDA) to work together with rural communities and other stakeholders to develop programmes addressing the challenges faced by small-scale and developing farmers in order to increase their overall farm productivity, profitability and food security. Since the beginning of the collaboration, Pioneer has invested R500 000. Limpopo is a key province for agricultural development in South Africa and its provincial government is supporting several initiatives to foster food security and self-sufficiency among emerging farmers.