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Agriculture and Rural Development

Agriculture in Africa – Telling Facts from Myths

Luc Christiaensen's picture
One third of Africa’s food goes lost after it is harvested. Women’s labor contribution in African agriculture is regularly quoted in the range of 60 to 80 percent. Labor is 2 to 4 times more productive outside agriculture.  These are just some of the factoids that shape our thinking about African agriculture and that drive policy.

However, the statistical foundations of Africa’s economic growth and poverty reduction narratives are increasingly being questioned. Shantayanan Devarajan, the World Bank’s former Chief Economist for the Africa Region, spoke of “Africa’s statistical tragedy” (after its growth tragedy of the 1990s), while Morten Jerven drew our attention to the challenges Africa faces in producing reliable national accounts.

When it comes to agriculture, the problems only multiply, with maize yield estimates, for example, varying substantially depending on the data source (by about 1 ton per ha between 1.7 and 2.6 ton/ha in Malawi in 2006/7). Clearly, tracking progress, even on some of the most elementary statistics for agricultural policymaking, is a challenge. So, what about the reliability of our common wisdom and policy direction which is often supported by references to the type of statistical factoids quoted above? Are we flying blind or vision impaired?

Who will add value in Africa? Who will cure? Who will build?

Andreas Blom's picture
Also available in: Français

 Dasan Bobo/World Bank​From my seat as an Education economist at the World Bank, I go through a number of strategies from countries and sectors in Africa outlining how best to achieve economic growth and development. I am repeatedly struck by a key question: Who will do it? Who will add value to African exports? Who will build? Who will invent? Who will cure? The answer is, of course, that graduates from African universities and training institutions should do it. But the problem is one of numbers and quality—there are simply not enough graduates in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and programs are of uneven quality.
 

Science, Technology and Innovation in Agriculture is Pivotal for Africa’s Overdue Transformation

John Kofi Agyekum Kufuor's picture
The persistence of poverty and food insecurity on the African continent is a major developmental challenge, both for Africans and the international development community. 
 
History shows that investments in agriculture can be a catalytic force in the fight against hunger, poverty and malnutrition and a well-performing farm economy can be an instrument for achieving sustained structural economic transformation. Agricultural growth was the precursor to industrial growth in Europe and, more recently through the Green Revolution, in large parts of Asia and Latin America.  The Green Revolution bypassed Africa.

When I was elected President of the Republic of Ghana in 2000, agriculture was a mainstay of the nation’s economy, accounting for 35% of its GDP, 55% of employment and 75% of export revenues. But it was a lagging, orphan sector, suffering from decades of neglect and lack of investment. Ghana’s agriculture had sadly changed little from the kind practiced generations ago.  Farmers were still eking out a living, tilling the land by hand, much like their ancestors.  
 
The World Bank’s new Agriculture Global Practice hosted President Kufuor and his colleagues from the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA).  Here, Yemi Akinbamijo, Executive Director, argues that science has unbounded potential to contribute to Africa’s agricultural transformation for the benefit of all Africans and the environment.
 
Photo credit: A’Melody Lee


Expanding Africa’s Digital Frontier: Farmers Show the Way

Aparajita Goyal's picture



Agricultural transformation is a priority for Africa. Across the continent, the significant information needs of farmers—accurate local weather forecasts, relevant advice on agricultural practices and input use, real time price information and market logistics—remain largely unmet. To the extent that rural regions are typically sparsely populated with limited infrastructure and dispersed markets, the use of innovative information and communication technologies (ICTs) overcome some of these information asymmetries and connect farmers to opportunities that weren't necessarily available to them earlier. Harnessing the rapid growth of digital technologies holds hope for transformative agricultural development. 

Africa’s big gender gap in agriculture #AfricaBigIdeas

Michael O’Sullivan's picture
Also available in: Français


Women are less productive farmers than men in Sub-Saharan Africa. A new evidence-based policy report from the World Bank and the ONE Campaign, Leveling the Field: Improving Opportunities for Women Farmers in Africa, shows just how large these gender gaps are. In Ethiopia, for example, women produce 23% less per hectare than men. While this finding might not be a “big” counter-intuitive idea (or a particularly new one), it’s a costly reality that has big implications for women and their children, households, and national economies.

The policy prescription for Africa’s gender gap has seemed straightforward: help women access the same amounts of productive resources (including farm inputs) as men and they will achieve similar farm yields. Numerous flagship reports and academic papers have made this very argument.

Learning from your peers: A lesson from Uganda and Senegal

Joseph Oryokot's picture

 Sarah Farhat, World Bank Group
















Despite Africa’s great diversity of cultures and climates, countries on the continent often speak the same language when it comes to tackling common development challenges. Senegal and Uganda recently did just that, teaming up to exchange best practices to boost agricultural productivity and employment on both sides of the continent.

I witnessed this knowledge exchange firsthand as I accompanied a Ugandan delegation led by Hon. Maria Kiwanuka, Uganda’s minister of finance, planning, and economic development, on its visit to Senegal. Their core mission was to seek out innovative ways to boost economic growth and create job opportunities for the country’s burgeoning youth, a challenge faced by Uganda and Senegal alike. As both countries continue to experience an increase in urbanization and population growth, and currently have economies that are predominantly based on agriculture, one common answer to this rising challenge is the enhancement of agricultural productivity and the development of agricultural value chains.

If I had three minutes with President Jakaya Kikwete…

Jacques Morisset's picture

Imagine that you are in an elevator. It stops to pick up the next passenger going up.  It turns out to be H.E. Jayaka Mrisho Kikwete, yes, the President of Tanzania himself, accompanied by a group of high ranking officials.  The President turns and asks you what you think is the most important thing that he could do for his country. You have less than three minutes to convince him.  What would you tell him?

I know what I would say, loud and clear: “Your Excellency, that would have to be improving the performance of the port of Dar es Salaam.”

No doubt there are plenty of issues that matter for Tanzania’s prosperity: rural development, education, energy, water, food security, roads, you name it. They are all competing for urgent attention and effort; yet it is also true that each of them involves complex solutions that would take time to produce impact on the ground, and it is hard to know where to begin and to focus priority attention.

This is not the case for the Dar es Salaam port, as most experts know what to do.

So why the port of Dar es Salaam?

The port represents a wonderful opportunity for his country. The port handles about 90%  of Tanzania’s international trade and is the potential gateway of six landlocked countries. I would tell him that almost all citizen and firms operating in Tanzania are currently affected, directly and indirectly, by the performance of this port.

Can Tanzania achieve its Green Revolution?

Jacques Morisset's picture

Let's think together: Every Sunday the World Bank in Tanzania in collaboration with The Citizen wants to stimulate your thinking by sharing data from recent official surveys in Tanzania and ask you a few questions.

Agriculture is the mainstay of Tanzania’s rural economy and the livelihood of most of the country’s poor. As a result, rural incomes and poverty reduction are closely linked to agricultural productivity. Yet, according to FAO, yields for important staple crops in Tanzania remain very low:
- With a maize yield of 1.3 metric tons per hectare (mt/ha) in 2011, Tanzania ranks behind Kenya and Ghana (1.6 mt/ha); and way behind Vietnam (4.3 mt/ha) or China (5.7 mt/ha).
- A similar pattern holds for rice (paddy), with Tanzania’s yield of 2.0 mt/ha in 2011 being comparable to only about half of Kenya’s (4.0 mt/ha), and less than one third of China’s (6.7 mt/ha) in that year.
- It is noteworthy too that there has been no general upward trend in yields over the past two decades, though there is considerable annual variation due to rainfall patterns.

Youth in Tanzania: a growing uneducated labor force

Jacques Morisset's picture

Let's think together: Every Sunday the World Bank in Tanzania in collaboration with The Citizen wants to stimulate your thinking by sharing data from recent official surveys in Tanzania and ask you a few questions.

"The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow", so the old adage goes. All countries, including Tanzania, need to invest in and build a strong, healthy, well educated, dynamic and innovative youth.  In Africa, the number of youths (aged 14 to 25 years) have grown significantly  over the past decades, contributing to the bulk of the labor force.

A bank in your pocket: The mobile money revolution in Tanzania

Isis Gaddis's picture

Let's think together: Every Sunday the World Bank in Tanzania in collaboration with The Citizen wants to stimulate your thinking by sharing data from recent official surveys in Tanzania and ask you a few questions.

The mobile phone is a truly novel device. It comes in just as handy and as easily when we need to communicate about the serious things as to chat about the simpler things in life.  Mobiles are not only being used as radios and flashlights but they are also delivering banking and financial services to those who urgently need them.

Increasingly, people around the world, especially in Africa, are paying their school fees, healthcare and utility bills using mobile phones today. Businesses use mobile money phones to pay their staff and suppliers. Poor people who have never entered a bank are using mobile services to send or receive remittances and to save their money.

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