Since the arrival of the Seleka rebel group in the Central African Republic, CAR, in 2013; as well as other armed groups engaging in attacks, and reprisals that have caused large-scale displacements of persons, the country has not recovered from the destructions meted on it.
CAR with an estimated population of about 5.5 million people (about 50% female) has been fragmented along diverse lines. The country not only suffers from a lack of social cohesion but citizens’ livelihoods have also been eroded; there are shortfalls in food production and food supplies because violence has adversely affected agricultural activities, brewing severe food insecurity.
But these could be addressed if there are effective collaborations at the regional and continental levels. The landlocked country is known for its rainforest, natural resources, and wildlife; like other African countries, a World Bank report in March 2023 shows that “about 75% of the citizens, particularly women, depend on agriculture for their livelihood.”
The largely agrarian country cultivates crops like cassava, maize, millet, sorghum, rice, and peanuts, for home consumption while cotton and coffee are cultivated as cash crops. Livestock farming is in cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, poultry as well as fishery.
Enhancing agriculture and its value chains can efficiently engage the teeming unemployed people and improve the country’s economy in line with the African Union Agenda 2063 especially as the country intensifies efforts at mitigating violent conflicts.
The commitment to peace was a major achievement on the CAR’s performance assessment in the first report on the implementation of the Agenda 2063 dashboard which showed the country made efforts to reduce conflict-related deaths “from 84 in 2013 to 30 per 100,000 persons in 2019.” Peace, security, and stability showed 100% performance; an indication that the country is committed to maintaining peace.
But CAR would not be food sufficient if other activities that can enhance food security are not urgently addressed. The said dashboard revealed that the country had “0% in the modern agriculture for increased productivity,” and also indicated that there was “a rise in the youth unemployment rate from 38.4 % in 2013 to 47% in 2019.”
A peanut farmer, Brigitte expressed concern that “leaving such an energetic population unemployed could derail the efforts at attaining peace.”
Citizen Jean-Paul noted, “Many reports have gone about the many problems we face, but we are committed to peace, there are isolated cases of a relapse, that is why we need collaborations with relevant stakeholders from within and outside, who would engage the youths and women in productive agricultural activities. We have a thriving peanut and other businesses, the labour is available, we need technological innovations, we need our institutions to be strengthened and good governance expanded to the countryside to enhance profitable agriculture, engage the people, produce food, and make the food available to everyone.”
Celestine added, “Our human capital development indices are low, and the gains in security were temporarily reversed in 2020. Continued dialogue returned us on the pathway to peace and stability but millions of people are still living in extreme poverty. With beneficial partnerships especially in agriculture, the vast land which is yet to reach its potential would be cultivated, and the ungoverned space outside Bangui and the neighbourhood that has given room for bandits to pose threats to farmers would be effectively utilized.
“Series of activities would stimulate infrastructural development so that transporting goods to the cities on difficult terrains which is very risky to farmers would be minimized. The credible partnership will ensure the utilization of the forests for economic purposes to reinforce the sustainable production and consumption pattern of the Agenda 2063.”
The African Development Bank Group in its Country Strategy Paper, (CSP 2017-2021) acknowledged that the CAR has “real economic growth potential in the
agro-pastoral sector capable of reducing poverty sustainably,” and “the country’s climate is conducive to rainfed agriculture, with relatively long cropping cycles enabling the cultivation of a wide range of food (cassava, sorghum, maize, peanut, rice, banana, tomato, etc.) and export crops (cotton, coffee, cocoa, palm oil, rubber, etc.)
“The climatic conditions are equally conducive to livestock development. Its hydrographic network, with two large rivers (Oubangui and Sangha), makes fish farming a potential growth sector, the same as river transport development whereby three capital cities of Central Africa (Brazzaville, Kinshasa, and Bangui) can be connected.”
The objective of the CSP 2017-2021 was to “help the country emerge from its fragile situation and create conditions for strong and inclusive economic growth.” The strategy focused on “agricultural development and infrastructure support for social inclusion; as well as institutional capacity building and governance.”
Assistance to curb challenges – AU-led mediation/AfDB intervention:
The African Journal on Terrorism by the African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism in its special edition, revealed that since the Solemn Declaration of 2013, several crises have been resolved and political stability has been gradually restored through AU-led mediation and crises have been amicably resolved in many countries including the CAR.
The leading African Bank, AfDB in 2022 according to information on its website; approved over $1 billion for an emergency food production plan, and CAR with 23 other countries benefited.
The facility provided African smallholder farmers with certified seeds and increased access to agricultural fertilizers. It also supported governance and policy reform, to encourage greater investment in Africa’s agricultural sector.
The facility was to enable African farmers to produce 38 million additional tons of food worth an estimated $12 billion over two years as Dr. Beth Dunford, the Bank’s Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development said, “The Bank’s approval of African Emergency Food Production Facility programme was to see more farmers access climate-smart seed, fertilizer and other support to boost Africa’s food security…”
Again, in the same year, Mamady Souaré, the Bank’s Country Manager in the CAR disclosed $5.4 million was donated to the country for a food security project, as he said, the grant was to provide farmers with “seed and fertilizers to boost food production and, thus, improve food security in the Central African Republic.”
The grant was to among other things, “help the Central African Republic to implement an emergency food programme to tackle the surge in food prices exacerbated by the war between Russia and Ukraine” as well as be used to “train workers in three national institutions active in the field of agriculture.”
AU initiatives to ensure food security:
No country can successfully tackle its agricultural and economic challenges without effective collaboration with relevant stakeholders and to enhance such collaborations, the AU had initiated some continental frameworks like the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP), as well as flagship programmes like the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The CAADP is to help eliminate hunger and reduce poverty by raising economic growth through agriculture-led development. Through CAADP, African governments agreed to allocate at least 10% of national budgets to agriculture and rural development and to achieve agricultural growth rates of at least 6% per annum. There are also targets for reducing poverty and malnutrition, increasing productivity and farm incomes, and for improvements in the sustainability of agricultural production and the use of natural resources.
CAR can effectively explore this having signed the CAADP Compact in 2011, committing to prioritize agricultural transformation and development. Citizen Richard noted; “… political leaders’ determination could make the difference here…”
AfCFTA on its part is to encourage regional and continental trade in goods among African countries, an instrument to accelerate intra-African trade and boost Africa’s trading position in the global marketplace.
AfCFTA Secretary General, H.E. Wamkele Mene, in 2020 while addressing the Council of Ministers responsible for Trade reiterated the need for African States to take advantage of the initiative saying, “AfCFTA is more than a trade agreement, it is a development instrument.”
It is projected that when countries successfully implement the agreement, about 100 million Africans will be lifted out of poverty and intra-Africa trade would be boosted by $35- 40 billion annually.
Recall that in the 2017 country scorecard for implementing Malabo Declaration, the Africa Union Development Agency- New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AUDA- NEPAD) showed the CAR scored “2.4/10 and was not on track in implementing the Malabo Declaration on Agriculture transformation in Africa” and a 2019 World Bank rating ranked CAR 184 among 190 economies in the ease of doing business hence the need to expedite action using CAADP and AfCFTA to remedy the situation.
Towing the right path:
But efforts have been escalated recently. The country’s National Agricultural Investment Plan (NAIP) has ensured improved policy development and implementation; rural women and youths are mobilized to create wealth in the agricultural sector, the AUDA-NEPAD disclosed.
At the Consulate of CAR in Abuja, Nigeria, the Consul, Aloy Michel stated, “The government of CAR and the UN are doing the job of ensuring security and food security. Being a farmer in crops and livestock, President Faustin Touadera is making efforts to empower farmers and women to improve food production.
“The government is inviting investors from different countries who can come with the modern technology for farming to educate citizens, however, the government has been trying to educate the youths on the importance of agriculture and seeking the support of the international community to adequately equip them to produce food and create wealth.”
On AfCFTA, he hinted at friendly trading policies saying, “AfCFTA can help the country to develop, the free import and export duties target inclusive development in the agricultural sector.” End.
This article was developed with support from the African Union through the African Union Agenda 2063 Pitch Zone Awards, a partnership with the African Women in Media.