afrol News, 21 October - Agriculture is seeing a major boost in Cape Verde, with massive investments in irrigation, infrastructure, disease control and distribution. Age-old bottlenecks are finally overcome.
Food security traditionally has been a delicate issue on the Sahelian archipelago, which has seen droughts and hunger come and go regularly since its settlement over 500 years ago. Meanwhile, over 90 percent of all food consumed in Cape Verde is imported.
Still, around one third of Cape Verdeans are directly or indirectly involved in the agricultural sector, which is also where most poverty is concentrated. In its anti-poverty policies, the Cape Verdean government therefore has had a special focus on agriculture.
These policies are now proving very successful, according to the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a US government development agency that has just ended a five-year US$ 110 million programme in Cape Verde. The MCC, which provides very focused aid, sums up the major gains of the sector during the period.
Especially within irrigation, progress has been great in Cape Verde. Some 28 reservoirs have been completed in key watersheds to increase irrigated land during the last year. Hundreds of farmers further have been trained in drip irrigation, conserving scarce water.
One of the main success stories is found on the island of Santo Antão, which is among the most agriculturally productive in the archipelago. But agricultural expansion on Santo Antão had been halted for the last 25 years due to an inter-island trade embargo following a millipede pest plaguing crops on the island.
"This embargo hindered access to markets and earnings for Santo Antão's 7,000 farmers," the MCC programme coordinator recalls. Alternative models for a lifting of the embargo were sought, the conclusion being that the pest needed to be controlled rather than exterminated.
An inspection centre to certify that the products leaving Santo Antão are pest free was set up, inspectors trained and a post-harvest centre with cold storage capacity to ensure freshness and quality of farmers' goods was established.
The storage centre was opened and the embargo on Santo Antão agricultural products was lifted this month. Having Cape Verde's best access to water, Santo Antão farmers expect to export around 3,500 tonnes of produce to markets on the other islands within a year or two.
But the MCC is only one among many partners of the Cape Verdean government seeking to improve agricultural output on the archipelago. Other state donors and UN agencies are launching projects at a monthly basis.
Rural Development Minister José Maria Veiga coordinated the efforts, but also sees to that the "Green revolution" is fuelled by the Cape Verdean government budget. Only this month, Minister Veiga announced increased budget posts for agricultural infrastructure works, especially within irrigation.
The Minister announced 19 new small and big-scale dams on the island of Maio "that will increase the irrigated area on the island threefold." The islands of Fogo and Santo Antão would see 70 new boreholes to accede groundwater. Better water and sewage management further was to increase water availability for agriculture strongly on all islands.
Cape Verde is, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), seeing strong and sustainable growth and rapidly moving away from poverty. Tourism has been a main factor in this positive development, and the tourism industry is also willing to pay higher prices for good, local agricultural products.
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