African Women produce over 50% of the continent’s food

Women are the backbone of agriculture and food production in Africa, supporting its population by producing over 50% of its food. But African women farmers are excluded from conversations that determine agricultural policies, while discriminatory laws and practices deprive them of their land, their rights, and their livelihoods, reports the Global Fund for Women.

A study on public spending priorities for African agriculture productivity growth released last year by the World Bank also revealed that a lack of sustainable agricultural productivity growth underlies pervasive rural poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa. It noted that while many developing countries in other regions have successfully raised their agricultural productivity, Sub-Saharan Africa tends to lag behind.

In the 2003 Maputo Declaration, African heads of state and government agreed that spending was far too low in agriculture and set a goal of investing 10 percent of their total national spending in agriculture.

This goal was reaffirmed in the Malabo Declaration in 2014. There is also an aspirational goal of increasing agricultural annual growth to 6 percent for Sub-Saharan countries, though growth is not a policy variable under the direct control of governments the way public spending is.

It pointed out that there is no one-size-fits-all formula for deciding what that optimal allocation across programs, investments, and activities should be and that the allocation will differ greatly across countries, depending on country circumstances and political preferences. That said, statistics showed that no country in Africa spends as much on agriculture as agriculture contributes to the economy.

The study states that boosting agricultural productivity in SubSaharan Africa would not only raise the incomes of farm households, which make up more than half the region’s population, but also lower food costs for the non-farm population and promote the development of agro-industry. This in turn would promote broader economic growth by stimulating demand for non-farm goods and services.

Among the recommendations in the study were:

Investing in rural public goods combined with better policies and institutions which would then drive agricultural productivity growth. The dividends from investments to strengthen markets, expand water access, and develop and adopt improved technologies can be enormous.

Improving the policy environment through trade and regulatory policy reforms complements such spending by enhancing the incentives for producers and innovators to take advantage of public goods, thus crowding in private investment.

Sub-Saharan African countries could achieve greater impact with current investments by moving away from a heavy focus on fertilizer subsidies, the study says, and moving toward a package of complementary investments.

Rebalancing the composition of public agricultural spending toward high return investments could reap massive payoffs. However public spending policy will need to remain flexible to cope with future challenges, and for agriculture, probably none is more urgent than climate change. It is a threat for agriculture across the world, but the lack of resilience of poor farmers makes it particularly serious in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Shortcomings of the budgeting process also reduce spending effectiveness. Therefore, addressing the quality of public spending and the efficiency of resource use is perhaps even more important than addressing the level of spending. Improving the efficiency of public spending requires managing the political pressures that determine budget allocations. Political pressures sometimes influence spending toward short gestation projects and programs rather than those that are longer in term but also higher in impact.

Editor's Note: The information for this article was sourced from a study done by World