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African agriculture

Special Issue of Food Policy Debunks Myths about African Agriculture

Vini Vaid's picture

In this era of alternative facts, the use of high-quality data to set the record straight is more important than ever. In Africa, there has been a pressing need to revisit the conventional wisdom on the region’s agriculture. However, relevant data—where available—have long been outdated and inadequate.

With this in mind, the World Bank’s Africa Chief Economist Office and its partners initiated the Agriculture in Africa– Telling Facts from Myths project. It explores the validity of the conventions surrounding Africa’s agriculture and its farmers’ livelihoods that experts and policymakers considered as self-evident truths. The impact of such stylized facts cannot be underestimated. They shape the policy debates and drive research agendas

Now, a Special Issue of Food Policy brings together 12 open-access articles based on the project, drawing mainly on data from the first rounds (2009–2012) of the nationally representative Living Standards Measurement Study-Integrated Surveys on Agriculture (LSMS-ISA). Four innovative features of the LSMS-ISA data—integration, individualization, ICT use, and intertemporal tracking—allowed for a more refined insight into African agriculture and rural livelihoods.

How can we help smallholder farmers seize opportunities in Africa?

Simeon Ehui's picture
 
Photo by: Dasan Bobo/World Bank

Agriculture is at the heart of addressing poverty in Africa. I was reminded of that during my recent trip to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where different stakeholders had gathered to explore how to transform smallholder agriculture for growth. The recent End Poverty Day activities in Africa, which focused largely on agriculture, was also a reminder of how central the sector is to ending poverty and boosting prosperity.  Indeed, the different stakeholders I work with on a daily basis—which includes African governments, development partners, civil societies, the private sector and farmers—all agree: Agriculture is important to the future of Africa.

Avoiding the “Harm” in Harmonized Standards for Food Staples in Africa

John Keyser's picture

Preparing vegetables taken from garden, Mongu, Zambia. Source - Felix Clay/DuckrabbitAfrica’s imports of staple foods could more than triple in the next 15 years. Without an increase in crop yields and an improvement in the trade of surplus food from areas with good growing conditions to deficit zones, importing sufficient amounts of staple food could cost the continent upwards of US$150 billion per year by 2030.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. As the World Bank showed in its 2012 report, Africa Can Help Feed Africa, the continent could easily deliver improved food security to its citizens through increased regional trade.

Often the nearest source of inputs or best outlet for farm products is a across a border, yet high costs and unpredictable rules make trade difficult and discourage investments by small farmers in raising productivity and large investments by private companies in input supply and food marketing.

Facilitating regional trade is therefore more important than ever for reducing poverty and meeting Africa’s growing demand for staple foods.

Africa’s big gender gap in agriculture #AfricaBigIdeas

Michael O’Sullivan's picture


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.

Oh no--not another apps challenge!

Maja Andjelkovic's picture


Wanted: Mobile apps for African agriculture (Credit: infoDev)

Today, there are close to 900 million mobile phone subscribers in Africa. Sixty-five percent of the continent’s labor force works in agriculture or related sectors and it accounts for 32% of the gross domestic product. Mobile innovations are already improving efficiencies in the agricultural value chain; research shows that grain traders with mobile application usage experienced income growth of 29% and banana farmers in Uganda saw their revenues go up with 36%.

The mAgri Challenge, a business competition, has been designed to identify and support entrepreneurs developing mobile apps for agriculture in Africa.  If you have worked with mobile tech entrepreneurs in Africa over the last few years, you might be thinking: “Not another mobile apps challenge!”  This ‘competition fatigue’ is not completely unwarranted.  Too many quick competitions for mobile apps, which at first seemed cool and generated lots of attention, have left in their wake a pool of mobile entrepreneurs confused about the next steps they can take to grow their business.

Some (Possibly Heretical) Thoughts on Agriculture

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Since the publication of the 2008 World Development Report, there has been a vigorous discussion in the development community about agriculture; today’s publication of the World Bank’s Agriculture Action Plan is a milestone in that process.  To stimulate further discussion on the subject, here are some thoughts from a garden-variety economist.

1. The oft-quoted statement, “GDP growth originating in agriculture is about four times more effective in raising incomes of extremely poor people than GDP growth originating from other sectors,” is an arithmetical point, not an economic point.  It simply reflects the fact that 75 percent of the world’s poor depend on agriculture for their livelihoods.