Given that agriculture accounts for 60% of jobs on the continent, its importance for sustainable development in Africa cannot be overstated. As a result, there’s no better time to learn more about the real impact that agriculture has in Africa, and how science and technology are enhancing the sector.
1) The African continent has immense agricultural potential: With 200 million hectares, sub-Saharan Africa boasts almost half of the world’s uncultivated land, which can be brought into production (Brookings Institution, 2015)
2) In fact, the World Bank predicts that agriculture and agribusiness in Africa will grow to be a US$1 trillion industry in Africa by 2030
3) Africa also has incredible renewable energy resources, which can boost agricultural production. It can source an additional 10 terawatts of solar energy, 1,300 gigawatts of wind power, and 15GW of geothermal potential.
4) Yet there remain serious challenges, which must be addressed if the continent is to realise its promise. Untapped agricultural potential has actually fuelled continuing poverty and aggravated food security in Africa. In fact, the African Development Bank has projected an increase in the number of undernourished people from ~240m in 2015 to ~320m by 2025.
5) The continent’s agricultural sector also suffers from low levels of public investment including access to farmers and agripreneurs
6) What’s more, food production in sub-Saharan Africa will need to increase by 60% over the next 15 years to feed its expanding population
7) However there are some signs of optimism.According to the 2016 African Agriculture Status Report, after decades of stagnation, many of Africa’s farms have registered sustained productivity growth since 2005.
8) Science and technological innovations are also having a real impact on local agricultural production, and improving residents’ quality of life. Before the introduction of drought-resistant maize in South Africa, average yields in South Africa were around 2.4 tonnes per hectare. According to agricultural economist, Wandile Sihlobo, these actually increased to around 5.3 tonnes per hectare in the 2013/2014 production year, the highest average commercial yield on the African continent.
9) There is also a deforestation project in Malawi that is training local communities to map their villages using GPS devices, and thus giving them the tools they need to create appropriate adaptation strategies.
10) What’s more, talented local agripreneurs are on the rise. For example, 22 year old Madagascan entrepreneur, Heritiaina Randriamananatahina, won the 2016 Anzisha Prize for creating Fiombonana, an agro-processing enterprise that manufactures dairy products and confectioneries using only Malagasy raw materials.