Africa has a long and complicated history. From the Portuguese exploration of the continent in 1460 to the Atlantic slave trade and modern-day ethnic conflicts in Sudan, it is, unfortunately, no surprise that the continent has long-standing issues with poverty. Ethiopia and Ghana are changing this trend. New, innovative farming techniques such as flexible growing practices and government-sponsored programs are reducing poverty, and famine rates have been declining in these countries. Worldwide organizations such as Africa Renewal are hoping that the agricultural reforms taking place in Ghana and Ethiopia can spread throughout the rest of Africa to reduce poverty.
While the mining industry is important for African countries such as South Africa, agriculture is by far the most important economic sector for a majority of African countries. Not only does agriculture provide jobs for residents, but it also acts as the main food source for over 1.2 billion Africans.
Farming in Ethiopia
Ethiopia has relied on ox-driven plows for centuries. Ethiopian farmers are primarily field farmers, which means they grow their crops on typical farmland rather than other alternatives such as in water-soaked rice patties. Ethiopia has dealt with severe famine over the past several decades, and farmers have helped alleviate famine by being flexible. Over the past century, Ethiopian farmers have shifted their main food source from enset to tef-based crops. Another change Ethiopian farmers are adopting is more flexible growing practices, which means rather than growing one crop at a time, farmers are beginning to grow as many as 10 different crops at once. Flexible growing practices add diversity to the food supply and help fight against weeds and pests, leading to increased food supplies, ultimately reducing poverty.
Ethiopia’s government launched the Growth & Transformation Plan II in 2015 that aims to significantly increase economic growth by investing heavily in sustainable and broad-based agricultural practices and manufacturing sectors. The end result of this initiative is for the world stage to recognize Ethiopia on the world stage as a lower middle-income country by 2025. While no one will know the full results of this initiative until 2025, the preliminary data shows that the program has been helping with Ethiopia’s GDP increasing from $64.46 billion in 2015 to $84.36 billion in 2018.
These new farming practices, along with government investment into agricultural practices, increased Ethiopia’s GDP by nearly 10.3 percent over the past decade, which is one of the fastest growth rates in Africa. The new agricultural practices that are stimulating the economy are a significant reason why Ethiopia’s poverty rate has also fallen from nearly 40 percent in 2004 to approximately 27 percent in 2016.
Farming in Ghana
Like Ethiopia, Ghana also has a history of poverty, with 24.2 percent of all residents facing poverty as of 2013. Ghana’s approach to reducing poverty is unique because the country is using economic growth. While Ethiopia is also focusing on economic growth, Ghana is not utilizing new farming practices in order to achieve economic growth. Rather, Ghana is using increased GDP to revitalize its agricultural sector.
Ghana’s unemployment rate is 6.71 percent as of 2018. With many residents unemployed, the agricultural sector provides job opportunities. Approximately 40 percent of Ghana’s available agricultural land is still available for use, which means there are many opportunities for agricultural expansion. Today estimates determine that the agricultural sector employs 33.86 percent of all Ghanian workers, meaning agriculture is the country’s main source of income for a third of its residents. Alarmingly, though, agriculture makes up only 19.7 percent of Ghana’s GDP as of 2017, which is the lowest total since 1983, when agriculture made up approximately 60 percent of the total GDP.
World Vision, a non-governmental organization, has worked in Ghana since 1979. Currently, World Vision implements 29 area programs. One such project is the Purdue Improved Cowpea Storage Project that provides instruction to farmers on how to store cowpea without chemicals. Storing cowpea without chemicals helps reduce post-harvest losses and maintain cowpea’s nutritional value.
With vast amounts of land still available and with the GDP increasing by 6.7 percent in the first quarter of 2019, the unemployment rate will decline significantly as more residents head to the fields and plant crops. Agriculture’s share of the GDP will also rise, reducing the downward trend since 1983, and ultimately, put more money into resident’s pockets.
Ethiopia and Ghana have made gains in their plans to reduce poverty among their citizens. Poverty in Ethiopia has fallen from 71.1 percent in 1995 to 27.3 percent in 2015, and Ghana’s poverty rate has fallen from 52.6 percent in 1991 to 21.4 percent in 2012. While these countries are making improvements, there is still a lot of work remaining before all of Africa’s citizens are free from poverty.
– Kyle Arendas