DfID Funds Infrastructure, ‘Best Bets’ for Agriculture in Africa

The UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) has recently launched its new report, entitled “Eliminating World Poverty: Building our Common Future.”

Two implicit dimensions are rreflected in this report’s title.  Firstly, the world already has many good solutions for reducing world hunger, but they simply need to be scaled up and funded in order to work at a broader level.  Secondly, while many markets are still fragmented and inefficient,these markets are increasingly part of a common globalised economy, in which we all participate.

Two interesting African initiatives highlighted in the report and being funded by DfID are the North-South Transport Corridor and the ‘best bets’ approach to agriculture.

The North-South Transport Corridor is a $1.2 billion project which will upgrade 4,000 kilometres of road and 600 kilometres of rail track.  The goal of the project is to free up bottlenecks in shipping and other transport, especially in parts of eastern and southern Africa.

DfID’s ‘best bets’ for agriculture will see funding going to “the innovations with the greatest potential to lift poor people out of poverty, and to getting these into widespread use.”  AS DfID sees it, these include:

  • tackling new pests which attack staple crops, such as virulent wheat rust and cassava viruses.  This will cost £20 million but could help protect almost three billion people who depend on these crops for their food
  • breeding drought-resistant maize for Africa.  This will cost up to £60 million but will help 320 millino farmers in Africa who are affected by drought and will indirectly benefit many more likely to be affected by climate change.
  • improving the vitamin content of staple crops. To develop these crops and get them into widespread use will cost around £80 million but it has the potential to help improve the nutrition of up to 670 million of the poorest people, many of them children.