The Sustainable Development Goals as we all know was adopted last year after the implementation of the MDGs from the year 2000-2015. This was done after critical and painstaking assessment of the MDGs with main focus on the achievements and the challenges that emanated from its implementation.
Unlike the MDGs, the SDGs are interlinked in order to provide a coherent forward movement of the world. In all, there are 17 goals with 169 targets that must be achieved within 15 years and the time is ticking very fast.
The question I have been tasked to critically examine can be found at goal 2 and 9 respectively, thus end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. The goal 9 talks about building resilient infrastructure, promoting inclusive industrialization and fostering innovation.
Talking about a continent that has 25% of the world’s arable land it will be easy to conclude that Africa should focus more on agriculture to feed itself and help feed the world, but the reality is that only 10% of Africa’s arable land is cultivated and the larger portion of this is used in subsistence or small scale farming, and that is what actually feed us. The food produced is not enough to feed Africa let alone to talk of the world. You find the small minority undertaking agricultural activities in Africa, majority of these people are old men and women. You ask me why? Right from basic school we are made to understand that dull students will end up being farmers or fishermen if you are a boy, depending on where you are receiving your education. Girls are told that they will end up being ordinary mothers who will only be cooking for their husbands and be used as sex materials. Those who are perceived to be brilliant are told that they will become doctors, engineers, lawyers, ministers, presidents, and of cause, they may sometimes add their profession, teaching.
It is however evident that many governments in Africa had pursued industrialization robustly as part of their developmental plan over the decades. We can talk of countries like South Africa, Ghana, Rwanda, Nigeria, Sudan, Ethiopia, Zambia, among others. This has or had given rise to a lot of commercial agriculture activities where agro-industries are concerned. As a result, larger arable lands has been dedicated to industries. As mentioned above, we all know that the greater percentage of the food provided on the continent comes from indigenous Africans who own smaller farm lands. Now, imagine the benefit we will be getting if the same size of arable lands allocated to factories are given to farmers whose desire is to invest their energies and time in large scale subsistence farming.
Even though it is subsistence farming that feeds Africa, when large scale commercial farming comes in, factories to process the cash crops cultivated on this commercial farms for exports will be a necessity. The question however is, will Africa export food whereas over 201 million of its people are chronically undernourished? Africa spends over $20 billion on food importation; this means, greater percentage of the monies derived from Africa's food exports are used to buy food into Africa again, sometimes with costs higher than what it earns during export. The fact is that, the dependency theory always works against us, farm inputs are heavily subsidized for farmers in most of the countries outside the continent we directly trade with. Hence, we will have to decrease the prices of our commodities so we can get a market for the foods we export. A focus on agriculture will help us to not only feed ourselves sufficiently but to export the surplus for economic gain.
Watch out for the second part of this wonderful piece
Ghana's Youth Ambassador to the Commonwealth
CEO, Institute of Mentorship and Leadership Training