The world faces a major agricultural challenge. We must, over the next few decades, find ways to deliver nutritious, safe, and affordable food to a growing global population that is projected to reach 9 billion people by 2050. Stress on our land and water, increase in soil degradation, salinization of irrigated areas, migration of youth to urban areas, climate changes, are among the many risks that are negatively affecting the agricultural production potential in many countries around the world. The need for a comprehensive solution to global food and nutritional security is urgent.
Our progress in ensuring a sustainable and equitable food supply chain will be determined by how coherently the persistent challenges are tackled. This will also determine our progress in reducing global poverty and achieving a uniquely African Green Revolution. Fortunately, Africa is endowed with abundant natural resources, including about 60% of the world’s arable land, some of it still virgin land. These resources, if effectively and efficiently harnessed, could reduce the threat of food insecurity. Increased agricultural productivity, combined with viable agribusiness that adds value to farmers’ production and improved access to markets, can drive broader economic growth across the continent and vastly improve food security.
In recent years, a renewed focus on agriculture has been evident in policy and development agendas across the African continent. Yet, little knowledge has been generated on the inter-linkages of research and development, agricultural production, and markets, as well as the potential for developing them. This report outlines the status of agriculture in 16 African countries, paying attention to agricultural land and labour productivity and the potential to achieve rapid growth and development on the continent. The report adopts a new thinking in agriculture, one that reflects a value chain approach. The authors cover such issues as input availability and access, the need for an enabling policy environment, and access to output markets. The report also pays special attention to the crosscutting issues of gender equity, strengthening of farmer organizations and collective action, and the need to improve access to high quality extension and advisory services.
Encouragingly, African countries are giving greater priority to agricultural development. The African Union (AU), through its New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), is providing leadership and support via NEPAD’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). Through this program AU is encouraging countries to develop investment plans and to allocate at least 10% of their annual national budgets to agriculture. Clearly, recent sharp increases in international food prices are contributing to increased food import bills in the short run. However, improved performance in Africa’s agriculture sector through increased public and private investment and targeted interventions can help offset those short-term effects and, over the longer term. Achieving the African Agenda of attaining an average of 6% growth rate in agriculture will not only support sustained overall economic growth, but will also open up major opportunities for African farmers in domestic, regional and international markets. We need to enhance our collective efforts to achieve both food and nutritional security in Africa and we urge all the stakeholders in agriculture to sustain the momentum through collaboration to push forward the African agriculture agenda.
Kofi A. Annan