“Israel irrigation technology can transform the agriculture sector in sub-Saharan Africa,” Monsiapile Kajimbwa, country director for Tanzania at the Clinton Foundation, told IMPROVATE ahead of the Israel-Africa International Agri-Tech Conference, which will take place in Tel Aviv and online on December 10.
Agriculture is one of the main contributors to the economy in Sub-Saharan Africa, continues Kajimbwa, explaining that in Tanzania for example up to 23.5% of GDP is derived from agriculture, yet the sector, which employs 67% of the population, is “largely subsistence-based and dependent on rainfall – limiting yields and resilience.”
Rain-fed agriculture continues to be the dominant type across all agro-ecological zones in Tanzania with only 5% of potential irrigation land put into use, adds Kajimbwa. Furthermore, he says, the adoption rate of improved seeds ranges between 5% to hardly 20% and fertilizer usage is between 5% to hardly 9kg/ha, resulting in low yields of cereals and legumes.
“As a result, the country suffers from poor food security with 32.1% of the population undernourished.”
What is urgently required in order to ameliorate the situation says Kajimbwa is “to increase access to high quality seeds for smallholder farmers, improved access to finance for smallholder farmers to finance agro-enterprises, and agricultural technology transfers to help farmers irrigate with existing water bodies and shift from entirely relying on rainfall.”
Furthermore, Kajimbwa adds, “there is a need to increase investments in agriculture and incentivize smallholder farmers to engage in farming as a business.” He notes public sector financing for agriculture in Tanzania has averaged between 3-5%, below the 10% target of the pan-African Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP).
“Most farmers in sub-Saharan Africa work alone, with both limited support to overcome obstacles in agricultural production and minimal-to-no access to formal markets,” says Kajimbwa. This, he explains, makes them especially vulnerable when yields stagnate — “often a result of limited access to improved seed varieties, quality inputs, and increasingly erratic weather patterns due to climate change. Farmers also lack access to information about prices and opportunities to sell their crops, making it harder for them to earn a consistent living.”
To address these challenges, he says, the Clinton Foundation’s Clinton Development Initiative developed its Community Agribusiness (CAB) approach, grouping farmers together to collectively increase the quantity, quality, and consistency of their production while also improving their access to markets and finance.
As to where Israel can make a contribution to African governments to Africa’s agricultural sector, Kajimbwa, says Israel irrigation technologies can transform the agriculture sector and that Africa needs supplies of irrigation equipment. He notes that for example that avocado and mango plantations would greatly benefit from careful management of irrigation that will improve yield by providing irrigation only when the crop requires it.
Kajimbwa adds that Israel can also help with technological and agronomical tools for optimum growth and with integration of agronomic expertise and agricultural engineering to lower costs for agricultural projects.