'Rural folk need more state support'

DAR ES SALAAM - African governments need to help smallholders turn a profit if they are to feed their hungry and stop the youth deserting the countryside, says a UN agricultural agency.

Peasant farmers produce 80percent of food consumed on the continent but governments have failed provide the infrastructure they need to develop, said Kanayo Nwanze, president of the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development.

"The rural poor need to receive help because they are the ones that produce the food and we need to help them become profitable.

"For too long, we have neglected the rural sector," he said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on Africa this week.

"You have to invest in the rural economy if you want the people to stay in rural areas.

"The youth are so critical. Who will feed the world tomorrow?

"Sixty percent of Africans are below the age of 30 and they want to migrate to the urban areas and they have no jobs, the rural sector is being vacated."

In 2003, African governments agreed to increase their annual agriculture spending to 10percent of their budgets.

Only eight countries, including Tanzania, Malawi, Senegal, Mali and Burkina Faso have managed to do so.

African nations had to create frameworks to avoid exploitation and instead bring jobs, investment and technology.

"It does not make sense to grow crops in the country and export those crops elsewhere when the population is subsisting on foreign food aid," Nwanze said. - Reuters