NAIROBI, KENYA – Agriculture by smallholder farmers is the mainstay of most of the economies across Sub-Saharan Africa with 50 percent of the population depending on it for their livelihoods. Agriculture accounts for more than 30 percent of the Gross Domestic Product in Sub-Saharan Africa.
And yet, smallholder farmers across the continent live in abject poverty despite the important contributions they make towards the economies of African countries. Their low literacy levels, general lack of training from state authorities and lack of adequate market access leave them vulnerable to price exploitation by unscrupulous middle men.
“One day, I hope that government will be able to help me to get a fair price on my farm produce,” said Amana, a farmer from Kenya’s western region, according to an article in Africa Times. “At the moment, what I earn is barely enough to cover the cost of clearing and harvesting my maize plantation.”
“I hope to be a rich farmer one day, but if the government doesn’t give me a fair share on my produce, I stand no chance.”
Cecilia Chirwa, a fresh produce farmer from Zaranyika Murewa in Zimbabawe also faces market problems and complains about dishonest middlemen who bully farmers into selling their produce at low prices.
“We have so many things to sell, but cannot find a favorable market,” she told AllAfrica. “Our market here is small and the rates are high so we just end up going to Mbare where the middlemen dictate prices of our products. We also suffer competition from cheap imports which people prefer to our local products.”
The upcoming 10th Ministerial World Trade Organization conference (MC10) held in Nairobi Kenya, seeks to address the alarming disparities in trade of agricultural products. This meeting represents the highest decision making body of the World Trade Organization.
The Nairobi meeting seeks to revisit the core issues raised during the Doha round and in so doing leverage agricultural trade between Least Developed Countries and the developed nations. Some of the key topics that will be addressed include the reduction of high trade tariffs as well as the elimination of export subsidies and restrictive domestic support.
Policy reforms and agendas negotiated and agreed upon during the MC10 will serve as a catalyst to open up new markets for African smallholder farmers.
This will not only lead to marked improvement in the lives of smallholder farmers like Cecilia and Amana, but it will lead to growth in the Agricultural sector across Sub-Saharan Africa as well. Growth in this sector is attributed to be at least 11 times more effective at reducing poverty than growth in any other area of the economy.
– June Samo