Agricultural development is the best way to realize African economic growth
Tag: African economic, African economic growth
Summary: There are many reasons to be optimistic about African agricultural development. But achieving food security in Africa will not be easy.
There are many reasons to be optimistic about African agricultural development. But achieving food security in Africa will not be easy.
Economic growth in low income countries has been, in part, driven by faster agricultural growth. Agricultural development is the best route to achieving economic growth that reaches the rural poor and most vulnerable.
As is evident from the experience of recent years, failure to ensure universal food security not only threatens political stability, social welfare and economic growth but hampers global trade and global security.
Africa will have to feed a population that has grown by nearly 50% by 2050 with new dietary demands, and at the same time cope with volatile food prices, shortages of good quality land and water, rising energy and fertiliser prices, and the consequences of climate change. This will require greatly increased food production in the continent especially if we are to build up reserves for climatic extremes.
If Africa is to achieve widespread, inclusive food security and in turn economic growth on a sustainable basis we will have to prioritise resilience in development strategies and programmes from the outset.
In a new report authored by the Montpellier Panel - a group of European and African agricultural experts, which I chair, we lay out a vision of agricultural growth with resilience.
The report - to be presented to development experts in the UK government and the European Commission on the 21st and 22nd March - will show how to achieve agricultural development which will withstand or recover from stresses and shocks and thus underpin sustained economic growth for the poorest in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Montpellier Panel make specific recommendations around three key areas, namely resilient markets, resilient agriculture and resilient people. The Panel also calls for political leadership to achieve this paradigm shift.
Resilient markets depend on reducing food price volatility, through creating grain stores and opening up trade across Africa. Resilience also depends on greatly increasing production. We believe the answer lies in more private investments and public-private partnerships that will build better enabling environments.
Resilient agriculture requires sustainable intensification, which in simple terms means getting more from less - on a durable basis. Farmers will have to produce more food, more agricultural products, on less land with less pesticides and fertilisers, less water and lower outputs of greenhouse gases.
Technologies such as mixed cropping, conservation farming, modern plant and animal breeding and micro-dosing need to be scaled up to reach a wider number of farmers. Micro-dosing - the application of a 6 gram mix of phosphorus and nitrogen fertiliser in a soda bottle cap to each hole before seeds are planted - is an example of the potential of technologies.
To date, it has been shown to increase grain yield by some 43 to 120% in trials, reduce fertiliser use to as much as 3 to 6 times less than in Europe and North America, and increase crop water use efficiency.
Had it been practiced by only a quarter of farmers in Niger in 2009 the grain shortfall that sparked the 2010 famine would have been avoided.
The Montpellier Panel report highlights the importance of strong political leadership if we are to achieve growth with resilience. The outstanding example of such leadership is in Ghana where agricultural GDP has risen at 5% per annum for the past 10 years and the country has already achieved the MDG of halving hunger by 2015.