Five ways Africa can become a global force in farming.


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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Five ways Africa can become a global force in farming

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  • Kunmi
    March 31, 2014

    Great job, Kofo. You should link up with DAWN – Development Agenda for Western Nigeria. It could help in exploring opportunities of benefitting from Economies of Scale, engender a network of like-minds and establish specific Government support.

  • Tosin
    April 2, 2014

    Love this article. Lots of action items spring from this.Learn from the best – suggests information sharing infrastructure. E.g. Farm Radio work for which Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu won a Future Award in 2011, or a marketplace and Q and A network online, and contests and ceremonies at agric fairs from local to national level to show off the best and share information about how they did it.The second and third points, on use of irrigation, use of machinery, and use of fertilizers need the following: BIGGER FARMS. Think about the economies of scale, and a smallholder farm may not have a research budget to do fertilizers and best practices. In the meantime, stopgap measures like machinery rentals, cheap drip irrigation modules can be arranged. But medium term, we need more-or-less corporate farms. I may be wrong?Of course 4. Infrastructure is right. Lots of talk nowadays about transport policy… And of course research and dev., but I think the economics will drive it when there are bigger farms. Research won’t be done for charity, it will be done for money.

    • Kofo Durosinmi-Etti
      April 2, 2014

      Great comments. I like the idea of a market place and Q&A network online, there are a few but they are not robust enough and after a while, it gets neglected. That’s a gap that needs to be filled.It makes more economic sense to use machinery and technology on bigger farms; however between 80% – 90% of farmers in Africa are small holders. Therefore permanent solutions should be developed that enable small holders increase yield e.g gathering farmers into functional and efficient cooperatives, which gives them strong bargaining power that will enable them to purchase farm inputs and machineries at the right price and demand a fair price for their produce as well. The challenge with small holders renting machinery is getting the equipments at the right time, there are usually too few equipments that are not well maintained to go round, agric activities are time bound and certain activities need to be completed at certain times.Corporate farms have their advantages and disadvantages. If it does not put small holder farmers at a disadvantage and are guided by the right principles then yes, but this is rarely the case. They are usually driven by profit and that is not necessarily a good thing. Farms rarely have a research budget they depend on government and international institutions like the IITA. Unfortunately African governments leave much to be desired but we see great things happening in Rwanda and it can be argued that the IITA is doing some impressive work.You are right private organisations won’t do research just for charity, this is where governments, FAO, IITA, Universities and other NGOs come in. However private organisations like Syngenta and DuPont Pioneer have found a way to include research as part of their business model. But like you rightly mentioned these organisations tend to focus more on the bottom-line and this will guide what they choose to spend their research dollars on.Thanks for stopping by.

  • An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a colleague who hasbeen conducting a little research on this. And he in fact bought me breakfast because Istumbled upon it for him… lol. So allow me to rewordthis…. Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending time to discussthis matter here on your web site.

    • Kofo Durosinmi-Etti
      May 13, 2014

      Thanks a lot for sharing this, I’m glad I could help you get a free meal. Hope you enjoyed it 🙂


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