The vice president of the West African Network of Farmers Organisations (ROPPA), Ibrahima Coulibaly has lamented against African governments’ alleged incoherent policies
In an exclusive interview during the ongoing FAO Regional Conference for Africa in Abidjan, Cote de I’Voire, Coulibaly said that although everything is a challenge for a smallholder farmer in African agriculture and although Nigerian farmers have all opportunities, incoherent policies by governments in the region are big.
“The biggest challenge in our regional agriculture is incoherent policies. We have all opportunities; we have all the tools to move ahead but the policies are not good for, especially the smallholder farmer in the African sub-region. Policies are not focused on the most part of the population, who are the smallholder farmers but the big farmers,” said Coulibaly.
While observing that such policies that tend to shifts more attention away from the smallholder farmer was not good for an intended prospective and vibrant agriculture, he posits: “This group of farmers should be supported. Small groups of rich farmers cannot help African agriculture and therefore, our leaders should not think that the region can achieve food security like America without supporting the smallholder farmer. America started somewhere and we must start at that point too. It is not possible because it is a process.
“African Agricultural policies are geared towards the exploitation of the small farmers who are 75 percent of the population of the region. If African agriculture is shifting from subsistence to an income earner; if we aim to end hunger and abject poverty, this cannot be achieved, especially if the smallholder farmer is not taken into consideration.”
Stressing that the smallholder farmers in Africa had all the potentialities if not for the question of bad policies, Coulibaly added that, but for the challenge of bad use of money, financing is not an issue because the region have money in the agriculture sector.
He therefore suggested that feeding Africa was the responsibility of Africans and that it was not possible to assign this responsibility to foreign corporate multinationals brought in by African governments. “We have to think because if we are not able to feed Africa, we will remain in food dependency. What we propose is the support for small-scale farming – is it in vegetable, livestock and fisheries production, etc and to protect our agriculture.
Our market is very open. We must process our agricultural produce here in Africa against the importation of the same products that the continent produces. As our farmers produce farm products, we must protect them, process them here and patronise the products. This is very important if we must progress,” Coulibaly further said.
On agricultural biotechnology, he observed that the region’s problem was not biotechnology because famers have the seeds they needed. “We only need to have financing with favourable conditions as well as have organised markets for our products. For me, biotechnology will only create dependency and not solve any problem. Our feeds are as potent as biotechnology seeds. Take Burkina Faso for example, it is the only country that has adopted BT Cotton in the African continent. But farmers are retracting because they have discovered that it does not give them what they want.”
Coulibaly said that ROPA was working on regional agricultural policies in twelve African countries, including Benin Republic, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Liberia, Mali, Niger Republic, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.
He added that Cape Verde and Nigeria were working to form their national organs, presently. “We have strong partnership with ECOWAS as an integrated body. We understudy agricultural, food and commercial policies of governments that have impact on agriculture and family farming,” he said.