Africa: UK Government shows ongoing commitment to African agriculture


As the Copenhagen Climate Conference looms nearer, the scars left by a changing climate are being felt across the world.

Nowhere is this more true than the drylands of Africa where food security - multiplied by landscape conversion, grinding poverty, and bad governance - threatens this huge continent.

Tony Hill from Tree Aid - a UK charity who work on forestry focused development - firmly believes investment in agriculture is the key to unlocking a better future.

A recent debate by the House of Lords (19th November) highlighted the urgent need for food security in Africa.  Lord Cameron and The Earl of Sandwich both emphasised the importance of investment in agriculture in Africa as a viable means of working towards alleviating poverty in a sustainable way,

Tree Aid has many years of experience supporting poor rural communities in Africa’s drylands. We work with small farmers, helping them to integrate trees and forests into their farming systems and make best use of tree products to support their livelihoods. Based on this experience, we support many of the arguments put forward in this debate.

nursery workers in ghana from tree aid

Nursery attendants in Ghana

Smallholder agriculture is definitely part of the solution in Africa. Small farmers in arid lands are highly efficient. Relatively modest investments could help them to be even more productive. Such increases in productivity, especially for women producers, will bring major direct benefits in food security and a cascade of secondary benefits in health, education and economic empowerment. 

acacia nilotica in villageA world with one billion malnourished men, women and children is indeed a scandal, to which the drastic fall in OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) investment and African government spending on agriculture has been a major contributing factor. Tree Aid is encouraged by the UK Government’s recognition of the need for good investment in agriculture and food security in Africa. We shall be even more pleased if this translates to increased investment in smallholder farming and agro-forestry production and if non-governmental organizations can contribute to ensuring this aid is effectively used.

Investment is needed in well targeted research and development to address the constraints and opportunities of small farmers. Certainly there is a need for training in appropriate technologies for soil and water management, which must include better management of trees in farmed landscapes. Micro-finance for enterprise development, market chain development and equitable access and control of land and forest resources are also critical.

Support in these areas will have a big impact on reducing poverty and vulnerability. Tree Aid would like to lend its support to the argument that "DfID must be in there helping to unlock this potential."

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