we tackle here throughout this issue the agricultural development in the African continent for achieving true progress in combating poverty and securing food so as to face against “global revolution of the hungry”.
After the permanent sounding of the warning alarm by many organizations such as FAO and many others, in addition to the current unrest which led to changes in some Arab countries, even if they were to better, reality has proved that these disorders have severely prompted so many countries to get a reserve stock of wheat in order to secure food for their people at a time when the price of oil rose, leading to higher food prices. Hence, dangers of occurring new crisis began to float on surface.
Among the negative drawbacks recorded in a study issued by FAO and other organizations, a child dies of hunger every five seconds, 47 000 people die daily from hunger, about a billion people suffer from chronic malnutrition in many parts of the world, in addition to the global turmoil. Therefore, to avoid global food crisis and war for the right to food in the Arab and Islamic world, the OIC countries should unite their efforts together in conducting mega agriculture projects for short and long term and improve the quality of the present agricultural products.
Reasons behind Preferring Africa
Choosing the African continent for the agricultural development in countries of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) is due to the factors that the continent have. Such features make the continent suitable for agriculture and development (at the first step) in the countries of the organization. Africa is the second-largest continent in the world with surface area about 30 km2. It has 54 countries with common characteristics. However, they differ clearly in area, population, and economic resources. Moreover, two thirds of the African population depend on agriculture in living. Despite its vast area, population density amounts 22 inhabitants per square kilometer, comparing with163 people in the agricultural lands per square kilometer.
Africa holds so many resources encourage agriculture investment in it such as soil, water, low currency prices and low production costs in addition to the climate factors that ensure stability of production of food with no ups and downs. On the other hand, the African countries accepted to invest in agriculture of all types. What Africa needs is coordinating efforts for good investment in agriculture through using the modern techniques either in agriculture or irrigation for better outcomes. Actually, Africa is able to provide food for all its population through the right policies. It also can have a surplus in the world food corps. In this way, it would end her dependence on the food aids provided from abroad. However, it needs the cooperation in exerting efforts and increasing investment in great projects permanently. Agricultural issues as well as food security should be merged in one strategy.
Challenges for food security
We are aware that the reasons beyond disability of achieving self-sufficiency in agriculture of many OIC countries are a lot. Thus, we must overcome such obstacles. Actually, the mournful issue is that some of these countries are classified as the world’s poorest countries, though the factors of agriculture either lands or water do exist. According to a report issued by FAO, some 1.6 billion hectares could be added to the current 1.4 billion hectares of crop land in the world, and over half of the additionally arable land is found in Africa and Latin America,
Fifty percent of MENA’s food is imported. High food prices and international market volatility mean domestic agriculture has taken strategic importance in all the food producing countries in the region. Non-food producing countries, such as the GCC, are looking at ways of securing land in third party countries to produce part of their food needs. Among these countries is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the world's largest exporter that expressed its concerns over soaring the inflation of global food prices.
The kingdom already hopes to double its wheat reserves within three years.
Khalid al-Rwis, a professor at the College of Food and Agricultural Sciences at King Saud University in Riyadh said at one of his press releases at the Electronic Economy Newspaper and other papers that Saudi Arabia's wheat imports will rise beyond the two million tonnes in 2010.
"This year it could be 2.6 million tonnes," he said, adding that the kingdom would have to import three million tonnes of wheat by 2015
The Saudi government has also said the kingdom will also need 3.8 million tonnes of barley, 1.25 million tonnes of rice and 0.78 million tonnes of sugar by 2015.
Other OPEC members have also focused on food. Algeria confirmed in January it had bought almost a million tonnes of wheat and had ordered an urgent speeding up of grain imports.
Not only Gulf States as we mentioned before, but also other world countries adopt this approach, due to high poverty and unemployment which harden the situation.
South Korea is looking to build a strategic grain reserve and is planning to buy cargoes of corn and other staples, joining similar efforts by other Asian nations worried about high food prices and social unrest.
Surging global prices of basic foodstuffs raise the risk that the food crisis of 2007-2008 in developing countries will be repeated, FAO Director General Jacques Diouf told press
"The high prices raise concern and we've been quickly drawing down stocks," he said. "For years we have warned that what is needed is more productivity and investment in agriculture."
Rapid economic growth in developing countries, and a return to growth in highly industrialized economies, had led to new drawdowns.
A number of countries in North Africa and the Middle East have made big grain purchases to head off the sort of unrest, partly fuelled by food prices.
The recent surge in oil prices has contributed to higher food prices that may crimp developing countries’ ability to cover food import needs, as it raises the price of both transportation and agricultural inputs, Diouf said.
The FAO has been advising developed countries to re-examine their biofuels strategies — which include large subsidies — since these have diverted 120 million tonnes of cereals away from human consumption to convert them to fuels.
He continued saying that the developed countries allocated $ 13 billion annually to support and encourage the production of ethanol. In the United States maize stocks fell down to its lowest level in 15 years due to using the crop in producing ethanol.
"We’ve been advising member countries to revisit these policies" Diouf said.
He pointed out that avoiding a return to food crisis hinges on crop yields in the next harvest season, as well as how economic growth impacts demand. But he also said rising food prices and oil prices could have a detrimental effect on growth.
Along with all the factors mentioned by the Director of FAO, Japan earthquake and tsunami and the UN warns against the climate changes which occurred as a result of floods and drought, ethanol production could skyrocket food prices and threaten food security in the long run
Several reports called for the development through agriculture, key among them was a report issued by World Bank in which it mentioned that Agriculture is a vital development tool for achieving the Millennium Development Goal that calls for halving by 2015 the share of people suffering from extreme poverty and hunger.
Three out of every four poor people in developing countries live in rural areas, and most of them depend directly or indirectly on agriculture for their livelihoods. The Report highlights two major regional challenges. In much of Sub-Saharan Africa, agriculture is a strong option for spurring growth, overcoming poverty, and enhancing food security. Agricultural productivity growth is vital for stimulating growth in other parts of the economy.
The concept of food security is quite different from food self-sufficiency. In pursuit of the latter, investments are always needed to be injected in agriculture. The OIC member countries with their countless elements that god bestowed upon them such as the vast areas of arable lands and pastures since the dawn of history. Civilizations built on the two banks of the Nile depended on agriculture as a major unique activity for them.
Major countries investing in Africa
Chinese investment in Africa is witnessing rapid increase since the beginning of the new century. However, it is still undersized, compared with Western countries making investments in Africa, especially in agriculture sector. For example, in 2009, Malawi Cotton Company invested US$ 19 million to establish Chungfi- Malawi Cotton Company in Malawi. This is China’s largest investment in the cotton field in Africa. Biofuel takes the lion’s share of the investments of the European countries, Asia and America in Africa, while investment in agriculture has not employed yet.
OIC initiatives to push ahead the agriculture development
There are many initiatives made by the Organization of the Islamic Countries (OIC) and its affiliated entities for the sake of the development of agriculture sector and avoidance of food crisis. Among these programs; Project titled “Support of policy consultation and actions to boost sustainable use of water and energy resources for agricultural production and livelihood improvement in the Near East Region in the context of climate change. It is a one year joint project between the OIC and Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).It will cover all the OIC Member States.
The initiative undertaken by the OIC’s Secretariat General called for organization of a special meeting of ministers of agriculture in the Islamic countries to discuss and explore ways and means to intensify cooperation in this vital sector.
The Declaration of Makkah al-Mukarramah meeting of the governors of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) that was held in 2008 stated the allocation of $1.5 billion over 5 years to overcome the repercussions of the food crisis and to foster the agriculture sector in OIC Member States. Therefore, the IDB developed a program for helping 13 Member States (Chad, Guinea, Sudan, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, Uganda, Mauritania, Iraq, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Tajikistan).
The Islamic Centre for Development of Trade (ICDT) had a role in these initiatives through organizing a workshop in collaboration with Ministry of Foreign Trade of the Kingdom of Morocco and the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) of the Islamic Development Bank.
As the only representative of the private sector in the OIC Member States, the Islamic Chamber of Commerce & Industry (ICCI) plays a significant role in these initiatives through its right arm; Foras International Investment Company that has embarked on the implementation of agricultural projects in some African countries.
The efforts that are being pushed forward by the OIC and its entities are a lot, however we still need more and more by short and long terms plan for agriculture investment.
Actually, all of us are aware of the vital importance of the agriculture sector. However, this sector in our Islamic sector is not given the necessary care and finance. It is our duty to exert efforts so as to develop agriculture at least in the African Continent. This shall be through methods of finance according to various provisions of Islamic legislation so as to provide funds necessary for investment through Islamic or even conventional banks located in the OIC’s countries. This could be applied by, for example, allocating a percent of allocations for the projects of this sector. Moreover, encouraging the investing cooperation among Nile Basin countries shall be through activating the Agreement of Nile Basin countries. The agreement states that: "reaching sustainable development in the socio field – (social) through the equal exploitation of common capabilities provided by the Nile basin" is the first step towards the agricultural development in Africa which is in a need for investment in agriculture more than any aids