Thursday, 10 August 2017

Dr Lindiwe Majele Sibanda talks food futures in Africa




Dr Lindiwe Sibanda came to ACIAR today and ‘nutrition, nutrition, nutrition’ was her main message.

Newly installed as Vice President at AGRA (the African Green Revolution Forum), Dr Sibanda is working with 11 African countries to build food security and resilience. 

‘No more boom or bust,’ she said. ‘We need to have resilience in the smallholder farming system’.
Charging smallholder farmers with feeding the millions in Africa is a big ask. But most farms in Africa are under 2 hectares, so it is the smallholders who will ensure food security for the people.
And it is vital work. ‘We cannot afford to have an Africa that doesn’t feed itself.’

Maize is important but people need diverse diets to stay healthy

Dr Sibanda has a first-hand knowledge of smallholder farming in Africa, as she grew up eating fresh vegetables from the family farm in Kenya. Sadly, she also witnessed the farm’s decline, as they moved from a diverse crop on their one acre, to a single crop of wheat. This provided bulk food, but a lack of nutrition. Mono-cropping is also known to degrade the land.

Smallholder farmers are vital to the nutrition, food security and resilience of Africa. ‘At AGRA we will work from farmer level, to system level, to national level,’ says Dr Sibanda.

Dr Sibanda spoke to a full house at ACIAR about AGRA's plans
They will work with 11 countries to start with: Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Mali, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda and Ghana. For each of these countries, AGRA has identified 3 ideal crops, and 2 secondary crops. 

In Tanzania work will focus on Maize, beans and rice with sweet potato and cassava as additional crops. ‘We need diversity,’ says Dr Sibanda ‘people need grains and a protein source.’ AGRA has met with the Tanzanian government to make sure they are happy with these focus crops.
‘We want to support countries that can get onto a sustainable course of agriculture,’ explains Dr Sibanda. ‘But we are very open to working with other countries in the future.’

Healthy green vegetables growing in Malawi for diet diversity
Over the ten years since it began, AGRA has worked on themed programs like soils and seeds. The next 5 years sees them moving to a country model. ‘We now have integrated country engagement, working across the whole value chain,’ says Dr Sibanda. 

AGRA has 4 main goals:
  1. ·         Increasing crop production
  2. ·         Working on markets and value chains
  3. ·         Building resilience of the smallholder farmer system
  4. ·         Coordination at national level with governments of the 11 countries.

‘Working with governments will be a game changer. We want to be a catalyst in the transformation agenda of Africa,’ Dr Sibanda said. AGRA plans to be a hub of expert support, as well as investing in training, and PhD scientists.

Dr Sibanda also spoke at the Crawfod Fund conference at Parliament House
AGRA also has important overarching priorities around supporting women and girls, youth and encouraging public-private partnerships.

‘We hope to show a real difference in 3 years,’ says Dr Sibanda, about her uniquely African green revolution.

Dr Lindiwe Sibanda is ACIAR’s newest Policy Advisory Council member.
She is also Vice President of AGRA (African Green Revolution Forum)
Read more about AGRA here: https://agra.org/

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