An optimistic outlook for Africa’s smallholder farmers
Recognising that African economies are experiencing unparalleled levels of economic growth, with agricultural growth averaging about 7% per year since 2005, the authors of Food For All in Africa have produced a ‘book for optimists’. They emphasise that, in the past, maize harvests for smallholder farmers were as low as 750 kg/ha, whereas yields of up to 6 t are now common. This has been achieved, in part, through drought-tolerant maize seed combined with improved fertilisers.
The challenge, however, is to capitalise on these achievements and bring them to scale. Food For All in Africa discusses how the concepts and practices of sustainable intensification can lead to better livelihoods for farmers, healthier diets, and viable economic opportunities for the rural poor. A ‘virtuous circle’ is envisaged where greater yields result in farmers becoming more prosperous, which benefits the rural economy and leads to other boons, such as improved investment and better access to markets.
“Much progress has been made over the last decades to address hunger and malnutrition across Africa,” states Professor Sir Gordon Conway, co-author of the book. “To sustain and accelerate progress, successful innovations and interventions need to be replicated and brought to scale.” Using digital connectivity techniques such as analysis of big data, machine learning and blockchain technology in order to increase agricultural production and food security in a sustainable way is examined, as are the challenges of transforming of agricultural policies and developing effective leadership in Africa to address these problems. Food For All in Africa may be unapologetically optimistic, but its positive tone is reinforced with solid examples which suggest that a prosperous future for smallholder farmers in Africa is achievable.
Food For All in Africa: Sustainable Intensification for African Farmers
By G Conway, O Badiane & K Glatzel
Cornell University Press, 2019; 342 pp.
In this issue
Edward Mabaya, manager of agribusiness development at the African Development Bank, explores what is needed to scale digital projects in Africa’s food market to achieve development on the continent.
by Sophie Reeve
Smallholders in Kenya are receiving training in good soil practices and the application of 100% organic inputs to scale up soil restoration and reduce plant stress under changing climatic conditions.
by Olivia Frost
Climate change is a global crisis; millions of people are already suffering and the impacts are getting worse. Policies to mitigate and adapt to climate change are increasing but many argue that the window for action is closing and decision-makers need to do more, with greater urgency.
by Sophie Reeve
New policies, free trade areas and digital projects are changing Africa’s regional food trade and opening up market linkages for actors of the agricultural value chain across the continent.
A Nigerian start-up is using artificial intelligence (AI) to guarantee markets for smallholder farmers and improve procurement efficiencies for large buyers.
Smallholder farmers in Africa continue to face numerous hurdles accessing credit or loans to increase their production. Amongst other factors, partnerships are key to addressing this, but governments need to take the lead, state experts from the sector.
Sesi Technologies is working to tackle poverty and hunger by providing African farmers with affordable technology to help them increase productivity and reduce losses. Co-founder, Isaac Sesi, speaks about his passion for technology and the importance of encouraging more women and young people into the sector.
Malawian agriprenuer, Ngabaghila Chatata, is co-founder and managing director of Thanthwe Farms, an innovative agribusiness, which aims to be a leading producer of high-value horticultural produce in Malawi and across Africa.
Manka Angwafo, founder and managing director of grain handling company, Grassland, outlines the challenges of taking a business to scale, particularly for women, and offers advice to other women entrepreneurs about scaling up.
Diariétou Gaye, World Bank Director of Strategy and Operations for the Africa Region, looks at the findings of the report ‘Profiting from Parity’ on the potential of women entrepreneurship for the continent.