Africa’s green revolution needs to start form the bottom up
Africa’s agricultural potential is no secret, but it remains unrealised. The only realistic future for African country is a self-sufficient one, where agriculture sectors are strong enough to feed themselves and generate vital income through exports.
Famine and food insecurity need to be stopped at the source.
It’s the same journey Asia embarked on in the 1960s, at the beginning of its own green revolution. And, while Africa’s path to agricultural sustainability – and profitability – will undoubtedly be different, it needs to start from the bottom up.
The challenges for Africa
Africa’s first objective is to feed itself. The continent on the whole still fails to produce two-thirds of the food it consumes, which highlights the need for developing agriculture sectors across African countries.
However, this development must be scalable and sustainable if Africa is ever going to become self-sufficient.
It needs to start with the smallholder farmers and planters. First, by educating them on responsible farming but also by creating a business platform for them to expand. Africa’s smallholder farmers need to be sustainable growers first and business people second.
In some parts of Africa, this will be more difficult than others. Smallholder farmers in parts of Somalia suffer from drought conditions and the constant threat of militant group Al-Shabaab. Meanwhile, farmers in South Sudan face a man-made food shortage due to an ongoing civil conflict that brought famine to the country earlier this year.
Irresponsible farming and severe weather conditions contribute to poor soil quality – one contributing factor to Africa’s food problems. However, rapidly growing populations are the continent’s biggest problem right now. Africa already fails to produce 75% of the food it needs and the number of hungry mouths is rapidly growing.
Africa’s green revolution
Africa’s unique challenges mean it can’t simply follow Asia’s green revolution and hope for the same results. Political insecurity and environmental factors need to be dealt with in their own right – and this will vary from country to country across the African continent.
However, like Asian policymakers before them, Africam policymakers need to channel investment into agricultural infrastructure, research bodies and universities to equip farmers with the necessary knowledge.
This needs to start at the very bottom with smallholder farmers with accessible training outside of the classroom. Ensuring they have the energy and water supplies they need will be vital. As well as subsidies for consumption to make sure their yields are never restricted by a lack of resources.
Attracting experienced multinational corporations to aid in the development of Africa’s smallholder sector will likely play a large part in this.
However, there is one issue that tends to get neglected in the discussions about Asia’s green revolution. Speak to locals in countries like Vietnam and Thailand and they’ll quickly tell you how concerned they are about the industrialisation of food in their country. The overuse of pesticides and other chemicals is in food production is a shortcut to producing food products faster and in greater volumes. But it’s not a sustainable method when the health implications are gradually becoming more apparent.
Featured image: By Oxfam East Africa – Small-scale farmers increase production, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35678480