From fed by the world to food security: Accelerating agricultural development in Africa
This research report (PDF) by the Plant Production Systems Group of Wageningen University and Research presents results of a search for policies and conditions that can help accelerate agricultural development in Africa. This development has been limited in many countries, as evinced by extreme low fertilizer use, low crop yields, poverty and high food insecurity. The report describes the rate of development for the period 1961–2014 for almost fifty countries on the basis of data on the average cereal yield and fertilizer use. Results show that the dominance of poor soils, often combined with difficult climates, explains in part why agricultural development has been slow. In many places, the low average natural production conditions have resulted in a population density that is much too low to allow for a financially beneficial use of fertilizer and other external agricultural inputs. The high costs of transport and trade, and of food and labor, have seriously hindered agricultural development in many African countries. Market oriented production did not become the driver for development, in contrast to countries with more suitable climates and better soils. A hopeful tendency emerges from this study: African agricultural development is taking off in response to population growth, as is shown by the cereal yield and fertilizer use adoption trends in many countries. Three quarters of the African population lives in countries with positive yield growth rates, with some of them having reached Green Revolution growth rates. Policies and conditions are presented that enable accelerated yield growth, which is extremely important for countries with no significant or negative yield growth rates, but is also of vital importance for countries with low productivity growth rates. The promotion of increased fertilizer use combined with integrated soil fertility management in rainfed agriculture has been identified as a first step towards achieving national food security and decreasing poverty, requirements for more economic growth and political stability on the continent. To become effective, these measures should become part of a larger policy package aiming for a rural development in which farmers, business and governments are partnering. Agricultural and broad economic development can only be furthered, if all of these stakeholders are unified in their efforts to bring down the costs of trade and transport and to develop a viable agricultural input and product market.
For related articles of the main author Henk Breman, please visit his website.