Monthly Archives: April, 2017

African Agriculture Embracing Science and Technology

The history of African agriculture is a turbulent one. The continent has famously been wracked with famine, drought and a lack technological capacity. Over the last 70 years, efforts have been made to overcome and rectify the issues plaguing agriculture on the continent. Happily, some progress has been made and a bright new path has been laid for the direction of African agricultural development.

Álvaro Sobrinho recently published his thoughts on the issue, stating clearly the need for more public investment in agricultural research and the creation of new, custom made financial packages especially for farmers. His views have been echoed by the Planet Earth Institute, who point to Africa’s low-level of public investment in farming as a key impediment to the development of the sector.

Planet Earth Institute trustee, Her Excellency President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, recently noted the commendable efforts of African entrepreneurs to bring innovative financial packages to African farmers. During a speech at the 40th session of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Her Excellency pointed to the example of the M-PESA payment gateway, that has brought reliable crop insurance to farmers in Kenya. Meanwhile, the Planet Earth Institute has highlighted the achievements of Madagascan entrepreneur, Heritiaina Randriamananatahina, who created a company that uses only Malagasy raw materials to create dairy and confectionary products.

For his part, Dr Álvaro Sobrinho has placed the spotlight on Brazil, hailing the country’s agricultural success as a prime example for Africa to follow. In particular, the development of new plant varieties, through government funded research, is a model he emphasises Africa needs to adopt. Even on the continent, the benefits of investing in the development of new plant varieties can be seen. Drought resistant maize has transformed farms in South Africa, increasing their yield from 2 to 5 tonnes per harvest.

It is clear that science and technology have an important role to play in the further development of African agriculture. It is now up to governments, businesses and NGOs to act on this knowledge.

African Development Hinges on Fulfilling Continents Agricultural Potential

According to international businessman, Dr Alvaro Sobrinho, African agriculture is far from fulfilling its potential. He argues that Africa agriculture could, if properly utilised, be turned into a driving force in Africa development. For this to happen, argues Dr Sobrinho, Africa must view agriculture as a business, not a lifestyle, and invest accordingly in agricultural technologies.

In regards to agriculture, the situation in Africa is dire. With low-levels of investments, poor financing options for farmers and a lack of access to modern technologies, it is no surprise that 80% of African farmers are of the small-scale, subsistence variety, despite there being numerous innovative agricultural entrepreneurs on the continent, points out Dr Sobrinho.

On top of this, over 60% of the world’s uncultivated farm land is located in Africa. This means there is huge productive potential waiting to be unlocked. “If we want to ensure the full potential of the continent’s agricultural sector, we must take decisive action on this issue”, concedes Sobrinho.

To do so, Dr Alvaro Sobrinho suggests looking to successful examples of modern agricultural transformations. For this, Dr Sobrinho sets his sights on Brazil, a country, he says, which has turned its agricultural sector into a bombing industry in just a few short decades.

The key to Brazilian success claims Dr Sobrinho, has been the countries willingness to invest in its agricultural sector. In particular, Dr Sobrinho highlights the case of a new variety of soybean, developed by a government funded research institution, which doubled the countries soy production capacity.

Dr Sobrinho believes Africa could achieve the same successes as Brazil if countries are willing to “financially empowering their research agencies”. Innovative financial tools will be essential for turning Africa’s anachronistic agricultural sector into an efficient and effective, profit producing industry.

For Africa to develop in the 21st century, the continent must “use sustained investment and focus in agriculture and agri-business to underpin economic success” concludes Dr Sobrinho.