Fields of Opportunity: Farming in Sub-Saharan Africa

March 7, 2013 05:30 AM
Fields of Opportunity: Farming in Sub-Saharan Africa

John Phipps took a trip of a lifetime late February and early March. He toured several countries in Africa, but it wasn’t just a vacation for him. John was invited by a farmer friend from North Dakota who is also trying to establish modern agriculture in Mozambique. National Reporter Tyne Morgan caught up with both of them prior to their departure to see why farming in Sub-Saharan Africa could be the next big thing.

Lush landscapes, warm soils and a humid climate. Looking at pictures of Sub-Saharan Africa, it seems the untouched land could present fields of opportunity.

"What I’ve heard is about 60% of the available arable, tillable land left in the would is in Sub-Saharan Africa," says Wally Hardie, a North Dakota farmer who just started farming in Mozambique.

"In the two countries I’ll be visiting, Tanzania and Mozambique, there’s enough arable land there to have three Corn Belts," says John Phipps, farmer and host of U.S. Farm Report.

The reality is infrastructure is absent. The Civil War, which lasted almost 20 years, robbed Mozambique of a strong economy.

"We were really dismayed by the poverty," says Hardie when explaining his first visit to Mozambique. "About 80 percent of the people there are not employed like we would consider employment. A lot of malnutritious in the kids, you can see they’re they’re malnourished."

Hardie has sent he devastation first-hand. The situation has motivated him to make a difference through what he knows best. Farming. What started as the family’s heart to serve through mission work, changed after a phone call of possibility.

"We would like to talk to you. Our company received a concession of up to 25,000 acres from the government of Mozambique if we’ll come in and clear the trees, plant soybeans and corn, mainly soybeans, for chickens. We really want to develop a chicken industry in Mozambique," says Hardie, talking about the phone call he received from the company who had been tasked with growing agriculture in Africa. "They said we’ve been farming in Ukraine, but this is over our heads. This is something that’s going to take some additional management, because there’s nothing there. "

With no hesitation, the Hardies jumped in. At the government’s request, a little over a year later, 2,000 acres have been cleared and 1,800 acres of soybeans planted.

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"There’s great potential for multiple cropping," says Hardie. "If we can irrigate, we can grow up to three crops a year."

"The more I learn, the more fascinated I am about the idea this could be the next big story," explains Phipps. "These were the types of rumors and wild things we heard about Brazil thirty years ago. I didn’t go then. This time I’ve got a chance, and Wally asked me."

Hardie’s mission seems simple. "We call it the triple bottom line," he says. "It’s kind of like a pyramid. If we can help the economy, have profits in the economic realm, then that can spill over to the social realm, and we can use profits to build medical facilities, to build schools, to educate people."

The road hasn’t been easy. From being accepted by the locals, to getting equipment and other essential tools into Sub-Saharan Africa, patience and persistence seem to be two key ingredients.

"It costs $25,000 to get the combine over there, and that’s not the (combine) heads," he says. "The heads go over in a container, and that’s an additional $10,000."

Add to that time. Hardie says it takes about four months just to get shipments there. That effort is worth it. He’s earning the villagers’ trust and opening their eyes.

"I think excitement that comes when people see what can be done," says Hardie.

John hopes to not only view Hardie’s progress first-hand during his visit to Sub-Saharan Africa, but maybe someday be a part of a new wave of farming, helping plant the seeds of opportunity, and growing hope for an abundant future.

"What I do know is that people who have been to Sub-Saharan Africa come back changed," says Phipps.




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