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African governments urged to step up investments in rural roads to end hunger

By Godwin Atser

More investments in rural transport infrastructure networks are needed in Africa to aid transport of agricultural commodities, reduce postharvest losses, and more importantly combat the menace of hunger, says Dr. Peter Hartmann, Director-General, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan.

He made the call at the backdrop of high prevalence of postharvest losses in Africa that has been fueled over the years by the limitations of deplorable rural road networks, infrastructure and energy.

These limitations have given rise to annual postharvest losses of between 10 and 90 percent in Africa, said Hartmann during a three - day international workshop hosted by the IITA on, ``getting farm harvest to market.”

The workshop, which is a collaboration of the Africa College at the University of Leeds, the Sub – Saharan Africa Transport Policy Programme (SSATP) managed by the World Bank and IITA, aims to promote an interactive dialogue between a range of stakeholders on food security, agriculture and rural transportation.

George Banjo, Senior Transport Specialists at SSATP, said investments in rural roads would help developing nations come out of the poverty trap.

With more than 80 per cent of agricultural produce transported by roads, Banjo said the development of the rural road network would ease transportation and offer farmers greater access to markets.

β€œIt will also improve agriculture sector's contribution to rural growth and poverty reduction in sub Saharan Africa,” he added.

Despite the favorable agroecological climate, SSA remains a net importer of food with some of its member states donor dependent. The region is also faced with infrastructural constraints that are hurting harvest.

Hartmann called for concerted efforts and dedication to good rural transportation so that Africa would cease being a receiver of food aid as ``there is no dignity in asking for food aid''.

According to him, with the right policies and infrastructure in place, Africa is capable of attaining self sufficiency in food production and could triple its present annual agricultural output.

Besides poor energy and infrastructure, the Director-General noted that harvests in Africa were also lost to biological and commercial threats.

The biological threats, according to him, include pests and diseases while commercial threats are made up of taxation, border barriers, and corruption of government officials.

He said there was great need for African governments to understand and make available the best and easiest way to make the means of transport, especially rural roads a reality for farmers. He said that rural roads could do the magic of not only reducing the cost of agricultural produce but also bringing development and employment to the people of the continent.

Participants at the workshop were drawn from the private sector, members of the Africa Union, seven national governments, development partners, non-governmental organizations, community based organizations, as well as academic and research institutions.