Africa Can Feed Itself But Needs Technology, Roads

Jason Straziuso, WTOP-FM (Washington, D.C.), December 20 2010

A Kenyan-born Harvard professor told leaders from five East African countries on Thursday that the continent can feed itself within a generation if farmers embrace modern technology and governments expand infrastructure and harmonize regional markets.

Calestous Juma says in a new study being presented to leaders of the five-nation East African Community that policies over the last century have favored exporting Africa’s raw materials and importing food, but that now Africa should focus on agriculture as an engine for regional trade and prosperity.

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Juma told the presidents of Burundi, Kenya and Tanzania as well as the prime minister of Rwanda and foreign minister of Uganda that they must embrace modern technologies, including biotechnology, and continue to expand basic infrastructure like roads, irrigation canals and energy grids. Farm mechanization and food storage also must be improved, he said.

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“Lack of food is not the problem. Enough food is produced in the world today for everyone to be properly nourished and lead a healthy and productive life,” a recent report from the FAO [the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization] said. Hunger “exists because there is not enough investment in the rural sector in many countries to support agricultural development.”

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Juma, who grew up on the shores of Lake Victoria near the Uganda-Kenya border, said the East African Community needs to align its national and regional policies to maximize the agricultural industry. Roads have typically connected cities and not rural areas, but farmers need strong transport networks to quickly get food products to markets, Juma said.

Reliable electricity in rural areas can help farmers process food after harvesting, whether it’s juice or canned goods, Juma said.

{snip} Kimani [Grace Kimani, a farmer] noted that many crops in Kenya rot because they can’t reach markets in time and because farmers lack modern storage facilities.

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