« AGRICULTURE: CRUCIAL FOR INCLUSIVE GROWTH »

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4 questions for Sofie Van Waeyenberge
Coordinator of the Agriculture unit, Enabel Brussels

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How important is the agriculture sector?

The Belgian Development Cooperation invests heavily in the agriculture sector: Enabel operates in agriculture in thirteen partner countries.

Both traditional and emerging donors, but also more and more private investors and foundations invest in agriculture. And rightly so; in the Least Developed Countries, the agriculture sector is still by far the prime employer.

Also, many partner countries pay increased attention to agriculture. With the Maputo Declaration (2003) African countries committed to the allocation of at least 10 per cent of national budgetary resources to agriculture, while this was only 1 to 2% at the time. And even though this target has not been achieved everywhere, most countries have drawn up investment plans and in some countries the budget has considerably risen.
In the least developed countries the sector of agriculture by far remains the principal employer.
How does Enabel design its agricultural projects?

The development strategies and national institutions of the partner country as well as the priorities of the Belgian development cooperation are the starting point. We look how the sector as a whole can be helped based on an analysis of the policy, the specific situation in the field and the capacity of the players concerned. Our programmes often provide institutional assistance at the national level (to technical ministries and possibly to other strategic partners) as well as operational assistance to various players for the specific implementation of the policy in the field. The interaction between policy and implementation is actively supported.
How can our interventions take into account climate change?

First and foremost, agriculture must adapt to the changing weather patterns and increasing droughts and floods caused by climate change. This can be achieved by adapting the agriculture methods and choosing other plant varieties and by promoting better water management. Agricultural research plays an important part in this.

On the other hand, we must make agriculture itself more sustainable and reduce the impact of agriculture on climate change. This can be achieved by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and stocking more CO2, for instance through reforestation, less deforestation and good soil management. Enabel investigates how to better integrate agroecology in its programmes.  
What are the main challenges for the future?

Economic growth and the increasing urbanisation in African countries drive the demand for varied and high-quality food which provides new opportunities for farmers. In particular, smallholder farmers cannot always easily access crucial services such as financing, production means, innovation and information... So, we must further learn from tested models and innovations and consider how local successes can be rolled out through adapted policies.

Also the creation of employment in the sector, in particular for the masses of rural youths that enter the job market every year, is a prerequisite for inclusive growth. 

Higher food prices also have pushed domestic and foreign investors to increasingly purchase agricultural land (land grabbing). So it has become more important than ever to protect the land rights of family farmers.

Finally, the different players in the sector do not always agree on which agriculture model to promote. Most donors and international organisations consider supporting smallholder family agriculture as essential to achieve inclusive growth and to ensure a sustainable food supply. However, this vision is not always shared by partner country authorities as they often prefer to facilitate investments in large-scale agriculture. That is why it is crucial to further investigate the role of smallholder family agriculture and to document it.

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