BACKGROUND TO THE 5TH AAEW 2021
The African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services (AFAAS) will hold the 5th AAEW from 14-20 November 2021. The event shall be hosted by the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) of the Republic of Uganda, in partnership with the Uganda Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services (UFAAS).
Agriculture in Africa is predominantly subsistence in nature dominated by smallholders, low levels of productivity across all agricultural value chains affecting food security and incomes from agriculture. The extension and advisory services meant to address these challenges among the smallholder farmers are not adequately accessible and professionally recognized. Further issues include uncertain land tenure systems, difficulty in obtaining credit or other financial products, lack of capital for fertilisers and seed, poor access to market information and high transaction costs in accessing markets. The sector is dominated by women actors at the lower levels of the value chain, highly dependent on rudimentary and traditional technologies, which affects overall productivity, social inclusion and equity. All these challenges are compounded by continent wide emergencies like climate change, locusts, and the COVID 19 pandemic further making extension services difficult to deliver. World over, attention has shifted to the use of digital systems and ICTs to increase productivity and efficiency across the entire agricultural value chain and supporting systems.
Africa’s urban population is expanding leading to exponential increase in food demand and changes in the type of food preferred. Specifically, the demand for processed agricultural products and ready-prepared foods continues to increase among urban consumers. Some of the emerging food preferences are met through imports, and Africa is gradually turning into a net food importer. It’s foreign trade is heavily relying on exporting raw and primary processed agricultural produce. This offers African countries an opportunity to accelerate agricultural transformation through building agri-agripreneurship skills among small holder farmers particularly youth and women in agriculture, while at the same time building agro-industrialization infrastructure or enhanced competitive participation in the global markets. This would raise smallholders’ incomes and create new jobs through higher-value enterprises such as horticulture, livestock and aquaculture products, which typically require higher levels of management skills and coordination with input and output markets as well as through linkages with agro-food and tourism. Expanding employment through downstream activities in value chains, and specifically through local agro-industrialisation, will be essential for reducing poverty and meeting growing demand for semi-processed and processed foods and feed. This calls for innovative high tech extension systems that can address the challenges identified and also facilitate actors to harness the new opportunities in agripreneurship, and agro-industrialization while ensuring sustainable environments for the last mile. Despite the importance of agro-industrialisation, progress in most African countries has been minimal, and to a large extent non-inclusive due to various challenges.
In Uganda, the strategic goal of the current National Development Plan (NDPIII), is to Increase Average Household Incomes and Improve the Quality of Life of Ugandans. NDPIII aims to pursue achievement of this goal under the overall theme of Sustainable Industrialisation for inclusive growth, employment and wealth creation. Uganda is majorly an agricultural country and agro-industrialisation takes centre stage in the growth and development of its industrial sector for wealth creation and inclusive growth, through increased economic integration and productivity in the agriculture sector. It requires growth of agro-processing and agribusiness; institutional, organisational and technological innovations at both farm and firm levels.