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.
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.
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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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