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African Governments Urged to Improve Rural Markets
23 April 2013


LONDON, African governments have been urged to increase investment in rural agricultural market systems and linkages to increase output and achieve food sustainability.

A report by an international think-tank – the Montpellier Panel – to be released in London Thursday, April 18 2013, also calls on sub-Saharan governments to improve the accessibility of credit and inputs to small-holder farmers. It also mentions the importance of land and water rights for the growth of agriculture on the continent.

The Montpellier Panel is a body of international experts in agriculture, sustainable development, trade, policy and global development chaired by Professor Sir Gordon Conway of Agriculture for Impact. Since March 2010, the Panel has made recommendations to EU governments to enable better international support of national and regional agricultural development and food security priorities in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Panel says “Sustainable Intensification” – producing more outputs with better and efficient use of all inputs on a durable basis, while reducing environmental damage and building resilience, natural capital and the flow of environmental services – has become synonymous with big, industrial agriculture.

Its lists some examples of “Sustainable Intensification” as; micro-dosing of fertilizer in Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, using the cap of a soda bottle to measure precise amounts of nutrients for each seed hole, and “Conservation Farming in Zambia” as a replacement for the traditional long fallow system of the region.

The Montpellier Report outlines four principles essential in delivering the ambitious objectives of “Sustainable Intensification”. These are: Prudent, in the use of inputs, particularly those which are scarce, are expensive and/or encourage natural resource degradation and environmental problems;

  • Efficient, in seeking returns and in reducing waste and unnecessary use of scarce inorganic and natural inputs;
  • Resilient, to future shocks and stresses that may threaten the natural and farming systems;
  • Equitable, in that the inputs and outputs of intensification are accessible and affordable amongst beneficiaries at the household, village, regional or national level to ensure the potential to sustainably intensify is an opportunity for all.

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