In a new book, Calestous Juma makes the case that Africa can ‘feed itself in a generation.’ Self-sufficiency is ideal, but there are some major roadblocks. Here is the problem:
Global food production has rocketed in recent decades but has stagnated in many parts of Africa, despite the continent having “abundant” arable land and labour, says Professor Juma.
He estimates that while food production has grown globally by 145% over the past 40 years, African food production has fallen by 10% since 1960, which he attributes to low investment.
While 70% of Africans may be engaged in farming, those who are undernourished on the continent has risen by 100 million to 250 million since 1990, he estimates.
The professor’s blueprint calls for the expansion of basic infrastructure, including new road, irrigation and energy schemes.
Farms should be mechanised, storage and processing facilities built, while biotechnology and GM crops should be used where they can bring benefits.
But what was needed above all else was the political will at the highest level.
“You can modernise agriculture in an area by simply building roads, so that you can send in seed and move out produce,” he told the BBC.
The path to agriculture self-sufficiency is filled with obstacles; some are surmountable, others are not. Building roads, irrigation facilities (less than 5% of the arable farmland in Ghana is irrigated), investing in crop and seed research, and bringing in tractors and other mechanized implements fall into the former category. Global trade dynamics, including tariffs and agriculture subsidies among rich nations, belong in the latter.
You are right in your classification of the challenges. The book deals with this by focusing on emerging intra-African markets and emerging Asian countries such as China that are lowering or eliminating tarrifs on African produce.