Africa – Agriculture on the Agenda

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Huge potential for African agriculture but climatic changes hamper productivity; debates continue as to whether agricultural development should be smallholder or corporate-led. 

Following the 10th anniversary of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), the African Union (AU) declared 2014 to be the year of agriculture and food security.  In 2015 they reiterated their commitment to the Malabo Declaration to allot 10% of income to agriculture, double productivity and cut post-harvest losses.

AllAfrica cite three figures to show the potential for agricultural development in Africa:

  • Roughly 600 million hectares of uncultivated land, around 60% of the global total
  • 80% of the land is rain-fed and not irrigated
  • The productivity of African agriculture is lower than other comparable regions

By developing these uncultivated areas, using more irrigation and enhancing agricultural productivity, the AU claim huge gains can be made in the fight against hunger, unemployment and poverty. The World Bank estimates that the African food market will be valued at $1,000 billion by 2030, compared to $313 billion today.

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A large part of the efforts have centred upon the Alliance for the Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), supported by the Gates Foundation and the UK Department for International Development (DFID), which for 8 years has been seeking public and private partners to spur ‘Africa’s Green Revolution’.

However the AGRA initiative has drawn criticism for its corporate focus, producing cash-crops that have little effect on the everyday nutrition and hunger of local communities.  Many commentators claim that there is powerful evidence that organic farming practices can produce equal yields and a larger diversity of crops than fertiliser heavy agriculture, reports Morten Thaysen from Global Justice Now.

Considerable evidence also shows that small-holder farmers produce a significant proportion of the world’s food on a fraction of the world’s land.

The debate as to whether agriculture should be small-holder led or corporate-led, is ongoing, but increasingly policy-makers are recognising the importance of small-holder farmers as agents of increased agricultural productivity, report Ventures Africa.

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However climatic and environmental factors place constraints on African agriculture, particularly issues of land degradation and local climatic changes. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that in the Sahel around 20 million people face food insecurity, report SciDev.

The UN-Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) conference was held between the 16-18 March and worked towards “evidence-based agricultural policies from scientific results”. CSA encourages policy makers to explore solutions that focus on food security, climate change adaptation and mitigation to develop sustainable landscapes and food systems; full text of the recent CSA report is available here.

However commentators have urged that the discussion be turned into actual initiatives; Allahoury Amadou, a member of the UN high-level panel of experts on food security and nutrition, urged governments to focus on the ability of farmers to produce food rather than taking up more and more time to do further studies.

The AU delegates plan to present the CSA declaration at the next UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris in December.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin

East African Community: Climate Smart Agriculture
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.51, Issue. 9, Pp. 20550A – 20550C

UN Climate Summit: Halting Global Warming
Economic, Financial & Technical
Vol.51, Issue. 9, Pp. 20550C – 20551C

Angola: Agriculture Leads the Way
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.51, Issue.9, Pp. 20553A-20554A

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