Africa, with 60 per cent of the world&’s arable land and climate conducive to a wide variety of crops, should ideally have been the world’s breadbasket, but instead the agricultural sector has remained underdeveloped. It is here that India can help, with its best practices in agriculture developed over decades that can be easily adapted to African needs.   

Leading Indian industry body, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), is working with more than 18 African countries to impart capacity building to farmers in seeds, soil testing, growing and marketing of crops and livestock management.

The CII had put up a stall "Modern Integrated Village" at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium, the venue of the Third India-Africa Forum Summit here, which drew a large number of visitors.

The stall, which had miniature replicas of a modern integrated village, of livestock management and women making food products–was aimed to convey to African nations of ways in which India can help to boost agricultural production in their countries.

“We are showcasing our best practices in agriculture, the new initiatives in agriculture that the African nations can use, what is common to both nations,” CII director Renuka Singh said.

The best practices include soil testing to see what crops are best suited to grow in that particular area, using minimal water for crops, solar generated water pumps, including in mountainous areas, to irrigate farmland, growing certain cash crops in agro shade nets to ensure they grow well, among other things, said Singh.

India is also keen to share the SRI Intensive Rice Technique with Africa, she said. The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) methodology is a low water, labor-intensive, organic method aimed to maximize yield.

“We have the models of  intensive farming that the Africans can graduate to and we feel they can take away,” she added. 

CII does a lot of capacity building and skill training among African nations, including through inviting their farmers to Farmers’ Field Schools, in Telangana and Haryana, or sending senior technicians to African nations to train their farmers in latest agricultural techniques.

Singh said India is also keen to share with Africa its techniques of using minimal water, part of the government&’s ‘More Crop Per Drop” scheme, with Africa where water is a scarce commodity.

Besides agriculture, animal husbandry, dairy farming and caring for the health of the livestock are other fields in which India can help, she said.

Training the women to make sauces, jams, jellies and other food products to make them economically independent, helping generate bio gas from bio waste, marketing the vegetables and linking up villagers with banks are among the initiatives in which India can help.

Tinyade Kachilka, director of Zimkole Mining Group of Malawi, evinced a lot of interest in the agricultural exhibits.

“These things can be of use in Malawi. These techniques are thinking beyond the usual, in how to maximize the use of existing technology,” said Kachilka, whose firm is a leading women-owned enterprise operating small-scale gemstone and ornamental stones mines in Mzimba district of Malawi.

“We can learn a lot from India in agriculture; Africa has a lot of arable land,” said a national from Namibia, who identified himself as Tara. 

South Sudan is keen for Indian assistance in agriculture and livestock. South Sudan Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin, during his interaction with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday, said that the population is only 12 million strong but they have huge fertile land. He said if India could provide assistance in agriculture then it would boost agricultural production and grain output in South Sudan.

Benjamin also discussed possibility of Indian assistance in livestock as his country has 14 million heads of cattle, which is the biggest in Africa. He told Sushma that India has considerable experience in livestock and India could share that experience.

Cooperation in agriculture was a topic that featured during many of Sushma&’s interactions with African ministers on Tuesday. Many African countries said that they have huge tracts of land and voiced keenness in using Indian technology, Indian tractors and Indian expertise, said External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup at a briefing. 

“The fact that India with 1.25 billion people has achieved food sufficiency and in fact is exporting food grains was noted with a great deal of appreciation and admiration by the African nations,” he said, adding that African nations were keen to replicate India’s Green Revolution.