The Right Way to Help Africa

February 11, 2017 02:50 AM
The Right Way to Help Africa

Editor’s Note: The 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.  

Think global but go local more than ever before, new policy paper says

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 a 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 are excerpts from the first of the three papers, which can be viewed in their entirety at  

  • Investing in Africa’s economic growth is in the U.S. national interest. U.S. exports of 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. 

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 www.FarmersFeeding



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