Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Agriculture and economic growth

The Rwandan Minister of Agriculture is talking about importing food. The picture for many has her coming, begging bowl in hand, to receive from the great, benevolent rich people. In fact, she is discussing, at an important rural poverty conference, how investment in irrigation should enable the country to decrease their dependence on imports significantly in the next three years. The discussion happens in the context of her announcement that agriculture sector growth will be limited for 2011, thanks to a drought season at the end of 2010, but is expected to be back up to the target of 8 % next year. Rwanda's government has been investing heavily in agriculture and the sector has led their economic growth.

Too often food and agriculture are presented as related only to poor, subsistence farming. In reality, agriculture is a major employer and driver of economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa. Part of fixing the way Africa is represented is fixing the way agriculture is viewed, both from outside and from the perspective of city-dwellers on the continent.

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