Agricultural research vital for food security

16th August 2017
TALKING FOOD SECURITY: Birhanu Teshome was amongst the speakers at the Agriculture Statistics workshop held last week in Botswana Source:The Midweek Sun


By Keikantse Lesemela - Reporter

A consultant of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Birhanu Teshome says research on agriculture can help improve the declining contribution of agriculture in most African countries and reduce the food import bill. Teshome, who is the former President for Ethiopian Statistical Association told Business Trends that, African countries need to pay more attention to the declining figures on agriculture.

“Focus on agriculture is declining even the reporting on agriculture is declining. Therefore, we need to pay more attention to this if we want to improve food production and diversify the economy,” he said. He said, African countries need more research and provide quality statistics to relevant bodies- as this will help policy makers to make good decisions that will help improve food production.

“We need to produce food for own countries, but nowadays there is a shift on reliance as countries are now relying on processed food and this is not healthy for the economy. We need to look at the food we are importing and why are we importing them,” said Teshome.Agriculture’s contribution to GDP in Botswana declined to P347.50 million in the first quarter of 2017, from P363.50 million in the fourth quarter of 2016.

The current figures from Statistics Botswana indicate that agriculture’s contribution to GDP averaged P339.56 million from 2003 until 2017, reaching an all time high of P432.80 million in the second quarter of 2010 and; a record low of P182.80 million in the fourth quarter of 2009. However, agriculture contribution to GDP has been slowly declining from 40 percent in 1966 to the current three percent.

Cost of food in Botswana increased by 4.30 percent in June 2017. Food inflation in Botswana averaged 7.91 percent from 2002 to 2017, reaching an all time high of 25.11 percent in October 2008 and a record low of 0.70 percent in December 2015. Teshome also explained that agriculture statistics are affected by various challenges including climate change, lack of expertise and focus on mineral sector.

He said statisticians need to be trained in order to come up with quality statistics. “We rely much on agriculture so we need to have reliable statistics so we can have good estimates,” he said. Speaking during the Agriculture Statistics workshop last week, Statistician General Anna Majelantle said there are challenges regarding provision of quality statistics citing among-others lack of expertise and skills in specific sector statistics.

She said African National Statistics Offices and development partners continue to collaborate in the development and implementation of statistics frameworks to provide expertise and skills for the improvement of various sector statistics. “The training component of the Action Plan for Africa is currently being implemented by the African Centre for Statistics of the Economic Commission for Africa with the technical support from the African Working Group on statistical training and human resources,” she said.

The Global Strategy to Improve Agricultural and Rural Statistics was established and endorsed by the United Nations Statistical Commission in 2010. Its objective was to provide a framework that will help improve the availability and quality of statistics on agriculture and food security in the world.

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