Can Africa transform itself from an agricultural basket case to the world’s bread basket?
This is the question which Peter Hazell tries to address in a recent article written for the Guardian newspaper.
Hazell discusses how the Green Revolution, which introduced modern agricultural practices and technologies to the developing world, helped Asia and South America to eradicate (for the most part) hunger from within their populations. Yet most of the African continent and its farmers have not benefitted from an equivalent revolution, and the productivity of their harvests has remained stagnant over the past half century while populations have been rapidly increasing and climate change is causing a less reliable supply of food.
In fact, local access for African farmers is still low. Historically, African governments have committed much less than their Asian counterparts in funding agriculture. Hazell estimates that Africa has spent around 5% or 6% of total government spending over the past 40 years while Asia has spent 15% or more over the same period. At the same time, foreign donors have, until recently, neglected agriculture as a development priority for their funding allocations.
There are indications that this is changing. African leaders have committed to increased funding to 10% of budgets and world leaders have earmarked money for investing in rural infrastructure support among other actions. As an example, the G8 just committed to $20 billion in funding at their July summit in Italy.
This momentum makes Hazell believe that
if supported, millions of poor farmers could lift themselves out of poverty and… it [Africa] could provide a solution to the global food shortages and spiraling food prices we are all facing.