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Four ideas for boosting agricultural productivity in Africa

In depth
This article is part of the dossier: Four ways to boost agricultural productivity in Africa

By Christophe Le Bec
Posted on Monday, 9 August 2021 17:48

Corn plantation in Burkina Faso © Vincent BOUCHET/limagrain

From Burkina Faso to Côte d’Ivoire to Tunisia, The Africa Report highlights four agricultural success stories that are sowing the seeds of a bright future on the continent.

This is part 1 of a 5-part series.

The challenge is hardly new. Although all sectors of agricultural production in Africa are seeing a rise in output, the increase is still insufficient to meet the rising demand for food as the continent’s population continues to grow. Productivity remains too low.

Year after year, analysts point to African countries’ ever-growing reliance on food imports – mainly from Asia – with China and Thailand supplying the bulk of the continent’s rice, while South American exporters, Russia and Ukraine provide other agricultural products.

Winning formulas

Africa has already come up with some winning formulas in the agricultural productivity department, but there is still a great deal left to do where organising supply chains is concerned; be it optimising the often precarious logistics of securing inputs and transporting crops or building efficient cooperatives.

Tunisian winegrowers certainly have a lesson or two to teach about establishing successful cooperatives; pooling production and marketing resources; providing mutual support and sharing knowledge.

Another major achievement has been in creating seeds suited to the local environment, such as the Mercedes cocoa variety developed by agronomists in Yamoussoukro, Côte d’Ivoire. Thanks to its introduction, the country’s cocoa yields have jumped 83%. If the same amount of R&D resources was put into other locally consumed crops, as opposed to those for export, it could be a game-changer.

Finally, using emerging technologies is another promising avenue, with micro-irrigation (Burkina Faso has pioneered the method in Africa) and drones (some rice growers in Togo use them to map their fields, optimise their farming operations and improve the application of crop protection products) already making productivity gains.

In this series, The Africa Report zooms in on four useful ideas that are increasing agricultural production on the continent – four success stories from vastly different countries and sectors. These stories are not however meant to be exhaustive: the creativity of African farmers, who are facing an array of challenges especially in terms of logistics and climate change, does not end there. Our hope is that these four examples will inspire other agricultural actors in Africa to improve productivity and better feed their populations.

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We believe that Africa is poorly represented, and badly under-estimated. Beyond the vast opportunity manifest in African markets, we highlight people who make a difference; leaders turning the tide, youth driving change, and an indefatigable business community. That is what we believe will change the continent, and that is what we report on. With hard-hitting investigations, innovative analysis and deep dives into countries and sectors, The Africa Report delivers the insight you need.

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Also in this in Depth:

Tunisia: How a cooperative union rescued the wine industry

Long kept alive by cooperatives, grape growing and quality winemaking are thriving today in Tunisia. There is a well-coordinated association of cooperatives that oversees some 9,000ha of vineyards.

Innovation: Burkina Faso is at the forefront of micro-irrigation

Burkina Faso intends to be a pioneer in the development of micro-irrigation.

Togo: Drones usher in small revolution in rice growing

Drones used to be the exclusive preserve of the security sector. But they also happen to be great agricultural tools and their use is changing the face of rice farming in Togo.

In Côte d’Ivoire, the Mercedes – a new breed of cocoa – sends production soaring

At the start of this century, agronomists in Côte d’Ivoire developed a variety of the cocoa seedling - Mercedes - that has since become the darling of farmers in the country.