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Africa's Agricultural self-sufficiency in one generation?

Africa is capable of feeding itself in one generation – this is the bold message from Harvard University Professor Calestous Juma, in his book The New Harvest, Agricultural Innovation in Africa

The book outlines strategies to making Africa self-sufficient; top of the list is calling on African leaders to make agricultural expansion central to all decision-making.

Calestous Juma, professor of international development at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs, and recognised globally for his work in applying science and technology to sustainable development, sees Africa at a crossroads.

‘We have come to the end of a century of policies that favoured Africa's export of raw materials and importation of food. Africa is starting to focus on agricultural innovation as its new engine for regional trade and prosperity.’

Global food production has increased rapidly in recent decades but has stagnated in many parts of Africa, despite the continent having "abundant" arable land and labour.

Juma estimates that global food production has grown by 145 per cent over the past 40 years, yet African food production has fallen by 10 per cent since 1960; he attributes the discrepancy to low investment.

And while 70 per cent of Africans may be engaged in farming, those who are undernourished on the continent have risen by approximately 100 mn to 250 mn since 1990. These statistics are particularly troubling but go some way to revealing the strengths and weaknesses in Africa’s current approach to farming. The potential for development is high, with Africa being the only continent with arable land readily available for expansion – Southern Sudan alone is capable of feeding all Africans if properly developed, according to Professor Juma.

‘Africa has abundant arable land and labour which, with an agreed common approach and sound policies, could translate into greater production, incomes and food security.’

Some of the key steps outlined in The New Harvest include:


The use of modern technologies and investment in geographical sciences for improved natural resource management

Improved technical education, especially for women and the provision of experimental education

The creation of new enterprises especially in fields such as seed production, farm mechanisation, food storage and processing

Harmonisation of trading practices that extend regional markets

Expansion of basic infrastructure