Feeding Africa, a high-level agricultural summit, recently met in Dakar, Senegal to discuss the future of the national farming sector. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) proposed the development of agricultural corridors to attract investment and spur economic growth in rural Senegal.
Agricultural growth corridors are designed to convert large swaths of land to industrial agriculture and connect farms with new roads and railways. The corridor concept is backed by the World Economic Forum and the World Bank, and has been criticized by many organizations as overly favorable to corporations and client governments who may develop the projects at the expense of smallholder farmers and rural populations.
The Feeding Africa meeting included more than 500 government officials, finance ministers, researchers, and bank officials. “Industries will help to create economic zones in Africa,” says Adesina. “We must invest in quality rural infrastructure and create the agricultural corridors that would attract investors into the rural areas.”
The conference emphasized private sector solutions to rural development. Macky Sall, President of Senegal, announced tax breaks for private companies willing to invest in projects to improve agriculture in rural areas. “We need individual and collective action to modernize agriculture,” says Sall. “We must avoid treating agriculture as a default activity or a by-chance investment.”
The Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda have similar proposals for agricultural corridors intended to create seamless agricultural markets, according to AfDB. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has committed to investment in feeder roads and an industrial park that will produce cereal grains for export.
EcoNexus, a public interest research organization, concludes that agricultural growth corridors intend to replace small-scale farmers producing for domestic markets with an export focus, leading to international control of land, water, and seed markets. Researchers from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research also concluded that African policy changes are needed to prevent the negative effects of land-grabbing on smallholder farmers at risk of displacement by growth corridors.
Through new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the United Nations intends to reduce hunger to zero by 2030. To accomplish this goal, the U.N. has set a target to double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers through secure and equal access to land, inputs, financial services, and markets. The U.N. also works to implement the Voluntary Guidelines on The Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests, which were endorsed by the Committee on World Food Security in 2012 and aim to promote equitable land access as a mechanism to eradicate poverty around the world.