Countries in Africa can become self-sufficient, says Obasanjo

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Former President Olusegun Obasanjo

How do you plan to mobilize African heads of state and development partners in transforming agriculture in the continent?

We have a basis for mobilizing African leaders and leaders of the world through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) where Zero Hunger is one major objective. What This should be regarded as the responsibility of any leader in a country; it should be one of his major objectives.

In Nigeria, we took Zero Hunger and I was with IITA going from one state to another and getting other states because we have to bring it down to the community level. From the state, we can go down to local government level and to the community level. Ask them what do they need, what do they do, what are your plans/objectives? How an the objectives be reached? Are we bringing in everyone on board? Financiers? Researchers? Producers? Processors? Marketers, even exporters?

Where there is any hitch, we point it out to the leaders for them to correct. Each community, each state, takes a number of crops that they want to focus on. This approach has been extremely useful.

How do we meet the target of food security by 2030?

I believe that we have seen, happily or sadly, a war in Ukraine has exposed or revealed areas that are not doing enough. We had to have that war in Ukraine for us to know that we depended so much, so heavily and continue to depend heavily on Ukraine and Russia for wheat.

I was taken around in Ethiopia and shown what they are doing—they will be self-sufficient in wheat in the short term and be an exporter in the long term. I was impressed by what they are doing. We have been supported by the African Development Bank. The objective is to be able to be a net exporter of wheat in the next 2-4 years—in Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya. That, I believe, is good.

How important are the work and innovations from national, regional, and international research organizations like CGIAR and IITA?

I believe the CGIAR system has done tremendously good work in the past. They still need to continue the good work. I don’t know how the attention to Europe will allow sufficient resources for these organizations now that areas of inadequacies have been exposed. If a country like Ethiopia can become self-sufficient and in 3 years becomes a net exporter, I believe other countries in Africa can do the same.

One good thing that I can say about international research organizations is that technology has put in what we need through research and innovations in agriculture. What we need is getting those products of research to the farmers, and to encourage farmers to make use of them. If we do that, our banks will be full.

Source: IITA

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