Marginalized African farmers
– Farmers in Africa have always been marginalized. With little or no help from their governments to produce or sell their products, says NAI researcher Atakilte Beyene.
He has recently joined the NAI rural research cluster where he will study food security and land rights in Africa. Countries in Africa need to produce more food, not least for the growing urban populations in the cities. However, there is also a global demand for cash crops, which normally require great amounts of both land and water. African governments often prefer investments in cash crops in order to bring hard currency to the country. This is one of the reasons why so many large-scale agro-investments are made in Africa.
– Agricultural investments don’t necessary have to be bad. It all depends on how they are carried out which in turn depends on the legal framework. Unfortunately, few frameworks are in practice. For instance, there is no structure for how to compensate farmers when their land is transferred to investors, says Atakilte Beyene.
With no legal structure and little help from the government, a whole chain of actions is needed. For instance, livestock farming requires veterinary support in order to have healthy cows to drag the plow, natural resources must be dealt with in a sustainable manner, development of credit and loans for farmers, possibility to store harvests and sell when prices are better etcetera.
– The list is endless. Farmers need to organise somehow in order to put pressure on companies and governments for necessary improvements. Otherwise they will always draw the shortest straw, like when middlemen buy agricultural products from farmers at a low and injust price, says Atakilte Beyene.