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.