‘With its rich land, Africa has no reason to suffer hunger’
Chitsunge, an internationally acclaimed expert in agribusiness and a facilitator of the Nigeria-South Africa Group on agriculture, is also a global humanitarian campaigner, who belongs to various local and international bodies, among which are Commonwealth Smart Partnership, Clinton Global Initiative, and African Heritage Society, among others.
Her Elpasso Farms sit on a land spanning over 1000 hectares and is considered one of the most thriving farms in South Africa, with its engagement in poultry, fishery, and animal farming. A strong advocate for women farmers in Africa, she recently visited Landmark University (LMU), Omu-Aran, Kwara State, where she was the guest lecturer at the school’s third convocation ceremony.She said that given the rich expanse of land in the continent and its enormous deposits, Africa has no reason to suffer hunger.
The facilitator and breeder of the Kalahari red goats said poor policies, misplaced priorities and wrong models were responsible for Africans suffering in the midst of abundance. She said, “there is no reason for Africa to suffer. In this 21st century, we now have agricultural technologies that make operation much better than in the old days. It is about time we, as Africans, looked into our own resources and leverage in making agriculture a priority.
“South Africa has got systems and policies in place, and we have gone a step ahead in agriculture in terms of process facilities, marketing, and others. To start with, infrastructures in Nigeria are not in very good condition. We need the right facilities to be able to access the market, and get the project on time. The branding side of it is also important to get the product to its destination in a fresh manner.
“Nigeria and South Africa are two key players on the continent, and Nigeria being the powerhouse, there is no reason why she cannot feed the world. We would like Nigerians to come to South Africa where they can learn more about our agricultural model and replicate that in their country,” she said.She also advised African countries to take cue from how developed societies utilise grants and aids given to them for agricultural purpose so as to attain maximal benefit.
“I have always said, ‘bring it (grants/funds) to the farmers’, because they know what to do with it. If you take it to politicians, they will use it for political mileage. Take it to the institutions; they will use it as their bank balance. But take it to the farmer and he will grow food for everybody to eat and also feed a whole tomorrow,” she averred.
Chitsunge, who is also an advocate of equal right for the womenfolk, regretted that issues relating to women are still relegated to the background, with many women still struggling to break the odds in a male-dominated society.But she was quick to assert, “all that has to change now. Education for women now is a priority. We are beginning to witness a shift. Today, United Kingdom is having her second female Prime Minister in the person of Theresa May. In the United States, a female, Mrs Hillary Clinton is gunning for American presidency. If she wins, it simply means the US will be having her first female president in its political history. Besides, we will now have two countries that are world superpowers being led by women. So the world has been moving along greater female representation even in political circles.”
She also appealed to various governments across Africa to be careful when deliberating on any bill that borders on gender equality, as the continent need more powers for women.“In almost all population, if you look at the amount of women that are actually on the farm, it is much more. 70 per cent of women are actually on the field; so why not focus on them, and then we now discourage importation of food into African countries. So, it is very important that governments look upon and energise women to drive this sector. I can assure you that tomorrow we will not have reasons to regret.”
Commending Landmark University (LMU) for its revolutionary function in promotion of agribusiness and larger women participation, she said, “I love what LMU is doing in terms of revolutionising agriculture and also encouraging more females to go into it. Generally, the university is also incorporating the youths as tomorrow’s future in this campaign. This is quite commendable. With institutions like this, people are going to start looking at agriculture in a very different way and not as pure charity or that the woman’s business is staying at home and looking after the children.
“We need empowerment of more women in education. If you look around, most of the women are actually the ones on the field. Interestingly, it is the skills that they need for them to grow the food sustainably in and make their modest contributions in the Added Value Chain. Beyond that, I also strongly feel we need to evolve educational policies for children less than five years because we are talking about 2050. Africa runs into this predicament today because the past had never prepared us, so why are we being selfish by not educating our five year old?”
She continued, “If there is a proper structure in place, I believe by 2050, the consciousness that they have to feed themselves would have been nurtured. There is need for better infrastructures and nutritional value. It is a whole process, which encompasses a lot of things. People need to realise that it is not an easy sector; yet with education and determination, a lot can be learned from it. In fact I will revisit LMU… every year, this university releases varying graduates in different areas of agriculture. What this university is saying is that be it on individual or corporate body, you can make food production a business.”