Friday, December 03, 2010

Africa can feed itself

"Africa can feed itself. And it can make the transition from hungry importer to self-sufficiency in a single generation." explain researchers led by Harvard University professor Calestous Juma, author of The New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africa.

Juma said that Africa was the only continent with arable land readily available to expand agriculture, and that southern Sudan alone could feed all Africans if it was properly developed.

One in three Africans is chronically hungry, according to the UN, despite $3bn (£1.9bn) spent on food aid for the continent annually and $33bn in food imports. About 70% of Africans are involved in agriculture, but almost 250 million people, or a quarter of the population, are undernourished. The number has risen by 100 million since 1990. Some African leaders have been criticised for enriching themselves or their militaries.

The researchers found that, while food production has grown globally by 145% over the past 40 years, African food production has fallen by 10% since 1960. Only 4% of the continent's crop land is irrigated. Fertilisers, pesticides and high-quality seeds are prohibitively expensive and in short supply.

"An African agricultural revolution is within reach, provided the continent can focus on supporting small-scale farmers to help meet national and regional demand for food," Juma said. His proposal includes the modernisation of farms, with new machinery and storage and processing facilities, and the selective use of genetically modified crops. He calls for new roads, energy sources and irrigation projects.

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