Five ways Africa can become a global force in farming.

What I leant in 2015

Five ways Africa can become a global force in farming.

How we made it in Africa published an article with the above title which I thought was interesting. The article shares the views of Bikash Prasad, CFO of Olam International. He discusses what needs to be done to realise the potential in Africa that everyone is talking about. Below are the key highlights.

Africa holds 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable land and has access to plenty of water resources, it has the potential to feed its population and contribute to global food security. In spite of this, Africa remains a net importer of food. One main reason being that Africa has the lowest actual crop yield (as a percentage of potential yield) in the world. SSA’s (sub Saharan Africa) crop yield is estimated at 25% of potential yield, compared to East Asia which has an actual crop yield of almost 90% of potential yield. Prasad estimates that if Africa can increase yield to 50%, the continent will have the ability to feed itself and become a net food exporter.

He suggests 5 ways Africa can increase its yield to 50%.

  1. Learn from the best: He suggests that farmers should replicate what has been done elsewhere to achieve high levels of success. For example, the highest yield producer of wheat in Africa is Zambia, producing 6.13 metric tons compared to the Africa’s average of 1.97 metric tons per hectare. The rest of Africa has to learn from Zambia and implement their best practice.
  2. Increase fertiliser use: In order to increase production Africa will have to significantly increase the use of Fertiliser. According to FAO statistics, SSA’s fertiliser application rates in 2008 was 7kg per hectare, compared to 165kg per hectare in Western Europe and world’s average of 109kg per hectare.
  3. Increase use of yield enhancing technologies: Statistics show that Africa is lagging behind in the use of yield enhancing technologies such as crop irrigation and agricultural machineries. Statistics from the World Development Report 2007, showed that between 2001 and 2003, 18.4% of the world’s crop land was irrigated, compared to 3.6% in SSA. Also Africa was recorded as having 13 tractors per 100km2 of arable land, compared to the Europe Economic and Monetary Union having 1002 tractors per 100km2.
  4. Improvements needed in Infrastructure and Energy: Compared to other developing regions, SSA’s infrastructure coverage and costs indicate that the region lags behind and cost is inefficient.
  5. R & D and innovative financing: African economies need to improve their expenditure on agricultural research and development, such as improved seeds variety. As a lack of access to finance is a major constraint for many smallholder farmers in Africa, he emphasised the need for the promotion of effective and innovative financing of agriculture.

According to Prasad if the right amounts of water, fertiliser, finance and labour are brought together in Africa, the region has the highest growth potential of any agricultural sector in the world.

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