Challenges Facing Agricultural Sector in Africa
January 23, 2016
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collage with vegetables and fruits from farmers market in Italy

Yes, let’s earmark some of the major challenges facing Agricultural sector in Africa.

Africa is growing and we knew that, and as Africa’s population grows from 1.1 billion to an estimated 2 billion by 2050, what critical factors will need to be overcome?

  1. Off-farm income – It may sound counter-intuitive, but off-farm income is critically important to agricultural development. The first migrants from farms to cities often send money back to their family members. Those remittances can fund better farm inputs – seed, fertilizer and machinery, for example. The resulting improvement in productivity enables more people to leave the countryside for cities where their incomes, and their diets, tend to improve – boosting demand and prices for farm output. In short, farmers and farm output benefit when urban workers have incomes sufficient to purchase food at prices that encourage farmers to produce more.
  2. Critical inputs – Farmers at all scales of production need access to the inputs required to produce a successful crop – high-yielding seeds, effective fertilizer and sufficient water. Even when these are available, input pricing is often too high for smallholders – resulting in fertilizer use in Sub-Saharan Africa of just one-tenth the world average.
  3. Property rights – According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN, secure land tenure and property rights can drive poverty reduction, rural development and global food security in developing countries. Farmers with clear land ownership are motivated to reinvest in their operations and increase production beyond subsistence farming, selling the surplus. Yet in many parts of Africa, farmers are unable to own their land and pledge it as collateral, limiting their incentive to reinvest in their businesses.
  4. Access to financing – Challenging legal and financial environments are constraining growth in African agriculture. For smallholders, especially, credit is often inaccessible or unaffordable. Without appropriate financing, farmers are not only less able to invest in their operations but also much more vulnerable to market volatility and unpredictable weather.
  5. Infrastructure for market access – Farmers generally can earn higher prices outside of harvest season – yet few African smallholders have access to proper storage to take advantage of price fluctuations. Furthermore, many smallholders live in isolated, rural areas. Infrastructure like paved roads, reliable energy, warehouses and cold storage not only benefit farmer livelihoods but improve food security by reducing post-harvest loss. According to FAO, 40 percent of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa lives in landlocked countries, versus just 7.5 percent in other developing countries. That means farmers in this region require greater access to primary cross-border markets – access that is made slow and costly by poor roads, long delays at borders and other issues.

 

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