Africa: The Right Way to Help

February 24, 2017 11:06 AM
Mozambique Corn Field

Helping sub-Saharan African farmers modernize the way they raise crops, and doing the same for the continent’s agricultural system as a whole, stands to benefit everyone. It not only helps millions of people better feed themselves in this growing world, it sows seeds of prosperity in a region whose population will soon comprise more than 20% of all people on earth. That's a lot of hungry mouths to figure out how to feed by 2050 and potential future middle-class consumers who will drive billions in commodity sales (think China).

These are just a few reasons the work of U.S. groups - governmental and non-governmental - to help African agriculture is important. But how do we ensure our work is effective amid the challenges of the 21st century? The Farm Journal Foundation decided to address the issue as Congress starts the 2018 farm bill.

The first of a series of new policy papers commissioned by Farm Journal Foundation offers suggestions on ways U.S. groups and the government could more effectively help African agriculture. They're intended to start the conversation, not provide all the answers. The following excerpts from the first of the three papers.

U.S. National Interest

Investing in Africa's economic growth is in the U.S. national int3rest. U.S. exports pof agricultural products to sub-Saharan Africa totaled $2.6 billion in 2013 and will grow rapidly if Africa continues to develop. By 2050, sub-Saharan Africa will contain 2.1 billion people - 22% of the world's population compared with 12% today. Rapidly rising population and incomes in Africa will increase the demand for a safe, affordable and sustainable global food supply. U.S. farmers and agribusiness can help themselves by helping Africa meet its rapidly growing food needs, by investing in the region's agri-food systems and by supporting a sustainable, efficient global food system.

Public/Private investment

Agricultural growth rarely happens spontaneously or solely through private-sector initiative, as crucial as private investment is. Private investment responds to incentives. A sustainable approach to developing mutual U.S. - Africa interests will require greater support for the development of African public institutions to nurture the next generation of African educators, farm Extension workers, research scientists, business entrepreneurs and workers in agri-food systems, as well as policymakers.

Chronic Underfunding

Despite public agricultural institutions' role in providing public goods, many such institutions in Africa are no more effective in fulfilling their mandates than they were three decades ago - in some cases, even less so. National agricultural research and Extension systems remain chronically underfunded and, with a few notable exceptions, have had little impact. Though there is strong evidence  public expenditures to agricultural research and Extension services are effective in promoting agricultural productivity growth and poverty reduction. Governments in Asia and Latin America provide much more funding to their agricultural research and Extension systems, and these countries are, not surprisingly, reaping major rewards from these investments.

The time has arrived for the U.S. to invest directly in long-term capacity building of African agricultural training colleges, vocational schools, national crop science research organizations, Extension systems and policy analysis institutes. International private companies, universities and non-governmental organizations have important but increasingly redefined roles that put African institutions in the lead.

Read the whole paper here

Editor's Note: The original report was authored by: Thomas Jayne, a professor at Michigan State University; Chance Kabaghe, executive director of the Zambian Association of Manufacturers, board chair of the Zambian Agricultural Commodity Exchange and former deputy minister of agriculture, Government of Zambia; and Isaac Minde, a professor at Michigan State University and deputy director of the Innovative Agricultural Research Initiative (iAGRI), in Morogoro, Tanzania.

Farm Journal Foundation is dedicated to sustaining U.S. agriculture's ability to serve the vital needs of a growing world population with education and empowerment. The foundation houses Farm Journal's many advocacy initiatives such as the Farmers Feeding the World campaign and elements of the Farm Journal Legacy Project. For more information on the Farm Journal Foundation, visit


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Spell Check

Wiggins, CO
2/27/2017 07:57 AM

  First I'm not an expert. I have been to Uganda and spent time on a farm project that I put together. The local interest was amazing . The friendship grew as much as the corn and this project is still going on. I learned a lot and people there I believe learned a lot. It takes more than money to do the job right . More time than money. I have been blessed to be a farmer for 64 years.

Fanie Brink
Bothaville, AL
2/27/2017 08:07 AM

  Food security is only achievable and sustainable if the production of food is profitable. In practical terms it means that food security is driven and created by profits and profits alone - there is no other way. The prices that farmers pay for their production inputs against that the prices that they received for their products (input/output price ratio} is and will remain one of the two main driving forces behind the successful commercial production of agricultural products. It is therefore a pity that almost all the major international donors who pump billions of dollars into Africa, believe that small-scale subsistence farmers can be developed as fully fledged commercial farmers by only increasing their efficiency ("productivity") of production to achieve sustainable food security. While increasing the efficiency of production through new technological developments is the second main driver that can improve the profitability and sustainability of food production, it is not as important as the above mentioned input/output price ratio. Efficiency plays an important role during times when the prices of inputs are rising at a faster rate than the prices of agricultural products and it is in fact the only way a deteriorating input/output price ratio can be financially survived. New technology must support and enable agricultural producers to either produce more products with the same level of inputs or produce the same quantity of products with less improved and high quality inputs. By ignoring the major thrust of the input/output price ratio is the main reason why small subsistence farmers will not develop as fully fledged commercial farmers and it is undoubtedly also the most important reason why Africa will never be in a position to produce enough food for himself. The correct application of these two drivers in combination is known as the “optimum level of production” which is the most important principle that determines the highest profitability and sustain

Uncle Berne
Los Angeles, CA
2/25/2017 01:13 AM

  Typical African article: hands out, begging for money. Stick with education and empowerment.


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