Africa is a continent rich with natural resources and the world’s largest share of uncultivated land; however, it remains home to more than one-third of the world’s extreme poor. With proper and efficient agricultural techniques, African farmland has the potential to not only feed itself, but the world.
Many rich nations are now looking to invest in African farmland for their future food security, but not everyone is happy with such land deals. Skeptics are referring to this trend as “farmland grabbing;” others are trying to make sense of it through research on the key trends and drivers of the acquisitions and its impact.
A study conducted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in partnership with the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the International Institute for Environment and Development found that factors underpinning land acquisitions are food security concerns, government consumption targets of biofuels, rising agricultural commodity prices and policy reforms in many African countries.
In spite of the controversial investment phenomenon, poverty and inequality still remain “unacceptably high and the pace of reduction unacceptably slow.” Africa’s farmers in particular, face many barriers to accessing the inputs they need, including limited accessibility to seeds and fertilizers and extension services, high transport costs, especially for small farmers, obscure and unpredictable trade policies that raise trade costs as well as costly and often dangerous border crossings and inefficient distribution services that hamper regional trade in food.
In 2013, almost one-third of African countries grew at more than 6 percent, with government investment in production of mineral resources and agriculture constituting the bulk of economic growth. The World Bank has noted that use of updated seeds and technologies in Africa’s agricultural sector could easily double to triple crop yields. Calestous Juma, author of “The New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africa,” also listed innovations in mobile communication, crop insurance, and post-harvest loss reduction as key to raising agricultural productivity.
With the use of agricultural innovations integrating political, social and environmental initiatives that can achieve sustainable growth, the potential for Africa’s agricultural production is enormous. According to Mark Beaumont, Director of the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture, “Africa has the ability to produce all the food it requires for itself and, if carried out correctly, most of the food the rest of the world needs too.”
– Rifk Ebeid