Farming is critical to efforts to lift Africa’s poorest countries out of poverty, IFA President Eddie Downey said on a visit to Ethiopia in the past week.
Eddie Downey said: “The experience and the struggle of farmers in Ethiopia is just the same as the journey that we made in rural Ireland a century ago. The solutions that are being put into place today are the same as those that spurred Ireland’s economic development”.
Visiting development projects being implemented by the IFA’s chosen charity, Gorta-Self Help Africa, Mr. Downey said that the creation of successful farmers’ cooperatives is essential if small-scale African farmers are to move from subsistence farming.
“In regions where few have their own transportation, and hardly any small farms have electricity, it is only by working together that farmers will be able to increase their incomes,” he added.
“We saw this in Ireland, when the agricultural cooperative movement transformed the lives of thousands of farming families. It is the same in Africa today.”
Mr. Downey said that up to 80% of the rural poor in Africa relied on small-scale farming for their survival, and that most of the farms in the region, with investment and education, have the potential to grow much more.
“African agricultural has great potential. There are huge untapped markets – both domestically and regionally. When you see the work that organisations like Gorta-Self Help Africa are doing to support agricultural production and organisation, and look at the potential markets that exist for produce, it is easy to see the vital role that farmers have to play in economic development,” he said.
“Cities in Africa are growing rapidly, and creating a ready market for the goods that farmers produce. Allied to this, trade between neighbouring countries in Africa is only a fraction of that between European states. When you consider the potential for production with the market opportunities, African farmers greatly value the support of organisations such as Gorta-Self Help Africa and are optimistic for the future,” the IFA President said.