The Leader of the Mechanisation task team of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Josef Kienzle has warned that lack of modern farming techniques was threatening Africa’s food security.
He said that unless the governments adopt new technologies of farming, the continent would continue to rely on food aid.
“There is need for a paradigm shift on intensive crop production since the current methods applied cannot meet the challenges of the new millennium,” Kienzle said during the second conservation agriculture conference in Nairobi.
The FAO official said the use of rudimentary hand tools and little access to mechanization and inputs such as quality seeds and fertiliser is further complicating agricultural productivity in the continent that has a high population growth rate.
He said the governments must also consider allocating funds towards the improvement of degraded fertile land, depleted groundwater, pest upsurges, eroded biodiversity, air, water and soil pollution and sustainable intensification to help increase production.
He noted that the more the annual crop yields continue declining, the more the continent would have of undernourished people.
He recommended the application of tools that offers minimum mechanical soil disturbance, promotes permanent organic soil cover and diversification of soil crop species grown in sequence.
The FAO official called for the formation of smallholder associations that can be formalized and later institutionalised and linked with other institutions to help promote information sharing.
“There is need to integrate sustainable mechanization in collaboration with the private sector to enhance productivity and profitability,” he added.
Kienzle said that the majority of smallholders in Africa are women due to the fact that rural-urban migration has forced youths out of the farms to look for other means of making a living.
“There is need to incorporate the youths by re-positioning farming as a lucrative business enterprise for them to venture into and supplement production,” he added.
FAO Climate Smart Agriculture Officer, Barack Okoba revealed that FAO offices in Kenya had developed a messaging system where farmers are sent electronic messages to their mobile phones.
“They receive messages on weather patterns and market information to help them make right decisions,” he added.
He further noted that coaching and mentorship programs have been set up through producer business groups to help attract people into the business.