Championing the cause for African farmers, Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina has risen in defense of agriculture subsidies while advocating the use of the private sector as a funneling platform in order to curb corruption.
This he stated at the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund (CIFSRF) High-Level Policy Dialogue in Addis Ababa. Adesina argued strongly that African Farmers deserve the same kind of support given to their peers in developed countries.
The CIFSRF Policy Dialogue was a major pre-event gathering ahead of the 2014 African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) and Adesina was unapologetic in his stout defense of the African Farmer. “While developed countries support their farmers with massive subsidies, African farmers, who are poor, are barely supported”, he pointed out, refusing to back down even when his view drew challenges from the audience, some of who believed that farm subsidies were particularly susceptible to corruption, when left in the hands of government.Adesina noted that subsidy programs, if transparent and efficient, are vital to agricultural transformation particularly in the early phases when there is “usually a considerable need to ensure that the poor -especially women and smallholders – benefit from innovations to farm practice”. To this end, he insisted that Africa needs to rise to the challenge of evolving ways of subsidizing its farmers as this has capacity to spur rapid progress in food production as seen in the developing world. According to the Nigerian Minister, “If it had not been for subsidies, India would not be the powerhouse it is today. It is what kick-started the transformation of India’s and Asia’s economy”.
The problem, according to Adesina, lies more with the mode of delivery of the subsidy, as against the concept of subsidy in itself. Buttressing this point, the Minster harped on the need to deploy the private sector as the channel for delivering agricultural subsidy citing the Nigerian experience which ended four decades of fertilizer distribution corruption by utilizing the private sector. The result, he said is that “Nigerian farmers purchase seeds and fertilizers with electronic coupons sent to their mobile phones”.