Agriculture in AfricaAgriculture in Africa is the cornerstone of sub-Saharan Africa, generating almost 23 percent of the continent’s GDP. Here, women are the backbone of the industry; yet, one in every four malnourished people in the world lives in Africa, and land laws are not as favorable to women as they are to men. The country-led initiative, Grow Africa, and the U.K. based charity, Farm Africa, are working to fix these disparities to help Africa reach its potential. Here are 10 facts about agriculture in Africa.

Top 10 Facts About Agriculture in Africa

  1. Agriculture is one of the most beneficial assets a country can have. It creates more jobs and helps eliminate poverty and hunger, which are immediate problems Africa is facing. Africa’s population will nearly double by 2050 and quadruple by 2100, making it harder to feed communities and generate wealth, but agriculture in Africa has the potential to flourish. In fact, Africa can add 20 percent more grain to the 2.6 billion tons of worldwide production, and nearly the same amount of fruits and vegetables. Agriculture also has the greatest potential to bring about gender and class equality by providing a source of income for women and the poor.
  2. Women in Africa represent nearly 70 percent of the workforce in agriculture and contribute up to 90 percent of the labor, but many women lose land after losing a husband. In fact, in Zambia, nearly 33 percent of widows lose access to family land. Unlike women, men have greater access to productive resources and therefore produce more per acre. By giving women access to resources, agriculture in Africa can produce up to 30 percent more and reduce hunger by 12 to 17 percent. In other words, women in Africa have the potential to feed as much as 150 million people.
  3. Changing the law is not the only answer to closing the gender gap in land ownership, it also requires social change and awareness. In Mozambique, a country in southeastern Africa, women have access to land and property (land law of 1997). However, implementation of the law took time due to traditional courts abiding by customary rules. This follows men being the head of their house and land. In Ghana, there are two laws from 1985 with goals of ensuring widows consent and benefit from selling family land, but not enough women are aware of the laws. Currently, several U.N. agencies are working to strengthen laws in African countries, re-shape social norms and raise awareness of women’s rights. This includes a Joint Programme on Accelerating Progress towards the Economic Empowerment of Rural Women. They aid more than 40 thousand women with training and enhancing their access to financial services and markets.
  4. Smallholder farms are family farms that are less than seven acres and form 80 percent of Africa’s farmland. There are 33 million family farms that are under four acres in Africa. Research shows that job creation is better capitalized, and investors receive more for their money on smallholder farms than industrial farms. Many farmers in Zambia,  have over 24 acres of land and direct access to markets and inputs such as fertilizer. On the other hand, larger family farms with good soil and access to markets are considered low risk due to receiving aid. Included are welfare, cheaper food and crop insurance. This allows farmers to take risks and increase productivity, such as growing crops for profit. Low risk means access to credit and therefore valuable inputs that will increase yield. The success of many farms depends on financing and resources.
  5. A crucial resource to increasing Africa’s production and growth is giving farmers access to more inputs. Many farmers use traditional farming methods, such as animal waste or cover crops for fertilizer. Despite these efforts, they are still unable to replenish their soil. Many do not have access to synthetic fertilizers or pesticides if they need them and cannot afford irrigation pumps. In fact, only six percent of arable land in Africa is irrigated. Producing more food, such as grain in Africa requires investment.  In order for maximum output of crops, there should be approximately eight times more fertilizer, six times better seeds and funding of $8 billion for storage and $65 billion for irrigation.
  6. According to the U.N., foreign investment contracts in Africa have seized nearly 50 million acres of land. However, these acts were not always conducted diligently or openly. Although some sources suggest that there is ample land for the taking, local indigenous people are often overlooked as viable owners. Additionally, much of the land in Africa is unattainable. About 50 to 70 million acres in nine countries in sub-Saharan Africa are arable, while the rest is lost to poor infrastructure, conflict zones, or under forest cover and conservation.
  7. Grow Africa’s mission is to increase private sector investments in agriculture in Africa, which addresses obstacles beyond the number of inputs. Rising urbanization and transportation reduce costs in transporting goods to markets. Investing in infrastructure would not only improve transportation but also intensify local competition. Additionally, it would allow access to arable land and create an efficient and profitable market. After stakeholders invested in agriculture in 11 African countries, poverty and hunger rates dropped and production rates increased.
  8. Farm Africa’s initiative is to improve smallholder farm practices and alleviate poverty starts with the stakeholders. The farmers along with agribusinesses, private investors, national research centers and the government are all vital resources which help farmers. They all aid in implementing technologies that increase resilient and productive outputs. In addition, Growing Futures encourage farms to work together to aggregate high-quality crops. It also promotes creating business plans and selling in bulk at higher prices. Farmers taking part in the project have are experiencing income increases. On average, average income has increased by 49.5 percent. In Elgeyo-Marakwet, Kenya, there are 446 farmers across 23 farms whose income accumulate as high as $210 thousand.
  9. Climate is a deciding factor in the success or failure of a farm. Most of the continent’s irrigation resides in only five of the 54 countries, making farmers more vulnerable to weather fluctuations. Farm Africa provides forecasts, insurance and small-scale irrigation systems to protect farmers against unexpected weather events.
  10. Farm Africa gives farmers access to important inputs. For example, fertilizers, drought-tolerant or disease-resistant seeds, and storage for their crops. Kenyan native, Lucy Marani, is a smallholder farmer who grew garden-variety peas to sell locally before finding financial security by diversifying her crops and switching to a more profitable seed that appeals to domestic and international markets. In 2018, Farm Africa fundraised raised $522 thousand. These funds aided Marani and two thousand other farmers in achieving security and success.

Improving agriculture in Africa not only addresses food instability. In fact, it is likely to bring about political rights, a steady economy and lower rates of poverty.

– Emma Uk
Photo: Flickr

Livestock Health in AfricaThe most vital aspect of creating a sustainable environment for the future of African people is supporting and maintaining one of its most powerful industries: agriculture. The agriculture industry comprises fisheries, wildlife, livestock and farm production, accounting for 35 percent of the continent’s entire GDP. Livestock alone makes up 30 percent of the agricultural GDP, making it a crucial component of Africa’s economy.

Ensuring good livestock health in Africa is not easy. Herds often face extreme weather conditions, zoonotic diseases and malnourishment making it difficult to maintain successful farms. Some of these diseases, such as the African swine fever, Brucellosis, Fowl Pox and Rift Valley fever can wipe out entire herds and livestock if left untreated. Many of these zoonotic diseases can be linked to human epidemics as well, contributing to millions of human deaths. A decrease in livestock production due to disease, weather and malnourishment means food shortages and increasing poverty and disease across Africa.

5 Ways Veterinary Care Improves Livestock Health in Africa

With the African economy relying so heavily on livestock and agricultural production, the need for access to veterinary care has become a top priority. The number of trained veterinarians increased in African countries over the past few years for several reasons. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and a number of nonprofits and government organizations are working together to provide African countries with veterinary assistance. Together, they hope to improve livestock health for a sustainable agriculture industry. Here are just a few initiatives to promote veterinary services:

  1. USAID provides fundings for veterinary training
    Through the USAID supported program Feed the Future Livestock for Growth (L4G) farmers in rural Mali can receive free training to become auxiliary veterinarians. This program provides farmers the opportunity to acquire medical training, professional development, superior animal care techniques, vaccines and medical equipment. The veterinarians can then provide quality livestock care to their entire community. Since 2015, L4G has successfully trained 79 auxiliary veterinarians in Mali, improving conditions in 76,000 households in over 800 communities. L4G has also increased vaccine security from 10 percent to 22 percent, saving half a million animals from disease. The Feed the Future initiative alone estimates that over 5 million people are no longer living in hunger and $10 billion has been generated by the agricultural industry since 2011.
  2. FAO and the European Union strengthen veterinary support
    The Strengthening of Livestock Services in Angola (SANGA) project is an FAO and EU initiative. It accelerates medical services for livestock and increases veterinary training for animal health auxiliaries in Angola. This project combines efforts of both public veterinary services and private animal auxiliary programs. SANGA develops a sustainable practice throughout the country to improve livestock health and eliminate food insecurity. SANGA hopes to use its resources to train 120 animal health auxiliaries and 20 veterinary technicians.
  3. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supports livestock production
    In 2017, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded a 14.4 million dollar grant to the animal health company Zoetis. Over three years, these funds will support animal health technology and veterinary services through the African Livestock Productivity and Health Advancement (ALPHA) initiative in Eastern Africa. This initiative will provide access to quality animal care and veterinary assistance to improve livestock health in Africa in countries like Ethiopia, Nigeria and Uganda. Funds will go directly to technical training and disease prevention as well as the development of animal infrastructure.
  4. World Vets International Aid for Animal
    This program brings universal veterinary care training to rural communities in Tanzania. World Vets deploys trained professionals to respond to the most critical needs of the agricultural industry throughout the country by providing locals with quality training and equipment. This program also donates $1 million a year to local veterinary assistance establishments to purchase medical supplies and prepare for emergency animal health needs.
  5. GALVmed distributes vaccines to millions of farmers throughout Africa
    This organization partners with the FAO, EU, World Organization for Animal Health and local governments to provide livestock vaccines and medicines that are easily accessible to the poorest and most isolated farmers in Africa. By developing sustainable agricultural practices to promote animal health, treatment for livestock diseases is better managed. Containing livestock diseases and eliminating malpractice in treatment will increase livestock production rate and improve livestock health in Africa.

Healthier Animals Can Reduce Poverty

Without the help of nonprofit and government programs, these initiatives to provide veterinary assistance to improve livestock health in Africa would have little to no success. Vet training gives local farmers the opportunity to utilize their own experience and technical training to give livestock the best care possible. Healthier animals mean more food, production revenue and booming agricultural industry for the entire continent, reducing the number of people living in poverty.

Becca Cetta
Photo: Creative Commons

How Farm Africa is Helping in the Fight Against Poverty
Farm Africa is a nonprofit organization that is reducing poverty in Eastern Africa by helping farmers “grow more, sell more, and sell for more”. The organization focuses on three aspects: agriculture, environment and business.


Agriculture in Eastern Africa accounts for 70 percent of the population’s income. Farm Africa is enabling farmers to maximize the use of their land by sharing its expertise in growing the most appropriate crops for the region in regards to climate and soil composition, as well as the most profitable crops. They also help to provide the necessary tools in order to achieve a successful harvest year after year.


In an interview with Aid For Africa, Bridget Carle, a graduate student working in South Africa, said, “Agricultural researchers have found that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can affect crop production…But now we are learning that higher levels of CO2 are likely to reduce levels of essential nutrients like zinc, iron and Vitamin A, as well as the protein content of crops.” Farm Africa is aware of the changing environment and uses its knowledge to encourage African farmers to use sustainable farming practices. The organization also helps farmers develop holistic approaches to their farming, taking special care to not overuse resources.

In Ethiopia, Farm Africa is currently working with citizens to employ sustainable practices to preserve their forests and increase their economy. One such example is teaching community members to produce honey, weave baskets and make bamboo furniture in order to generate income rather than chopping down trees so they can sell timber.


Forbes Africa wrote an article showing how investing in irrigation has seen positive outcomes for Ethiopia’s economy. This article includes a section about how Farm Africa, the Ethiopian Bureau of Agriculture and local extension officers have come together in a joint effort to “help women and young people adopt small-scale irrigation…[as]part of an initiative to increase their incomes and improve their nutrition.” This project came close to reaching 6,400 women and landless people.

There are three parts to Farm Africa’s approach to business; business development, finance and trade. The organization helps Africa’s rural entrepreneurs expand their businesses and give them the tools to be successful over the long term. Farm Africa encourages the growth of co-operatives so that farmers may sell their products in bulk.

Farm Africa has 170 employees across four countries in Eastern Africa: Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda. The organization works on the ground with farmers, helping them develop sustainable farming practices and yield higher quality crops year after year. They are teaching community members to be environmentally conscious as they give them different business tools to help them grow their businesses and thrive in larger markets. By focusing on agriculture, the environment and business, Farm Africa is helping to reduce poverty in Eastern Africa.

– CJ Sternfels
Photo: Flickr

Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina
What do you get when you combine the President of the African Development Bank, the Minister of Agriculture of Nigeria and an active member of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa? In this case, they are all one person. Dr. Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina was deservedly recently named the 2017 World Food Prize Laureate for his work in transforming African agriculture and solving Africa’s food issues.

Growing up in poverty himself, Adesina’s mission to improve farming in Africa has the potential to lift millions out of poverty. He studied Agriculture at the University of Ife in Nigeria, and eventually went on to earn his Masters and Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics at Purdue University in Indiana, U.S.A.

A firm believer in making a better world for the next generation of Africans through education, health and economics, Dr. Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina has been a political pioneer for millions of farmers throughout Africa. He works on everything from financial assistance for farmers to access to agricultural technologies and investments in agriculture.

Dr. Adesina believes that fertilizer and hybrid seeds can be some of the greatest assets to African agriculture in the coming years. He had a leading role in organizing the African Fertilizer Summit, which “was one of the largest high-level meetings in history to focus on Africa’s food issues,” according to CNBC. The mission of the summit? “Combating poverty and food and nutrition insecurity in Africa, and to direct our attention to key decisions that can move us forward with a view to eradicating hunger by 2030.”

The summit established a forefront to the Green Revolution across Africa, which in turn gave birth to AGRA, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, established by Bill and Melinda Gates.

With his Electronic Wallet System technology (or E-Wallet), Adesina has been able to cut out corrupt distributers, giving farmers access to seeds and fertilizer directly from the source. This mobile phone-based technology improved the lives of 14.5 million farmers and their families in its first four years.

Dr. Akinwumi Ayodeji also co-founded the African Leaders for Nutrition Panel with John Kufuor (former President of Ghana) with a goal to end malnutrition and stunting.

In 2011, he helped orchestrate the largest bank negotiation to aid farmers and agribusiness ever attempted in Africa, convincing the Central Bank of Nigeria to use $350 million in creating a facility that would pull $3.5 billion from commercial banks into agriculture.

At the 50th anniversary celebration of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in July of this year, Adesina announced that the African Development Bank (of which he is president) would be investing $24 billion in agriculture in Africa over the next 10 years. Adesina hopes that the two institutions can work together to transform African agriculture into being self-sustaining, with the potential to feed the entire continent within 10 years.

In a speech delivered last year at the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa, Dr. Adesina exposed the importance for improving agriculture in Africa and its effect on the world.

“Africa needs to invest more in science and technology to become more efficient and competitive in agriculture – and to diversify rapidly its economies. For Africa must fully unlock its immense agricultural potential. That potential is massive: Africa has 65 percent of all the arable land left in the world to feed 9 billion people by 2050. Africa cannot eat potential.”

These powerful words by such an influential man ring true, and hopefully more technological and scientific developments will come soon and impact Africa as positively as Dr. Akinwumi Ayodeji’s.

Katherine Gallagher

Uganda-Kenya Grain PartnershipA recent trading partnership between Uganda and Kenya is expected to bring prosperity and better trade relations for both countries. The two countries partnered up to balance out the surplus of grain produced in Uganda with the growing demand coming from Kenya.

Below are three things you should know about the Uganda-Kenya grain partnership and its potential to foster renewed development and growth in the region.

1. Global efforts make the partnership possible.

The FoodTrade project was able to establish the Uganda-Kenya grain partnership through a $3 million grant from the U.K.’s Department for International Development.

The partnership links farmers in Uganda to buyers in Kenya through a secure trading channel. This will allow for more effective, efficient trading of popular grains including green grams and soy beans.

Farm Africa, the lead agency for the FoodTrade project, assists smallholder farmers produce crops efficiently and trade them more effectively. This will boost their incomes and provide locals across the continent with the tools needed to feed themselves.

2. The partnership will positively impact many living in Uganda and Kenya.

Uganda, home to 35 million people, is among the fastest growing populations in the world. 80 percent of Ugandans are employed in the agriculture sector. Agriculture makes up 23 percent of the country’s GDP.

With such a large portion of the country’s working population gaining its livelihood from farming, an avenue to efficiently trade the goods produced means Uganda’s citizens can earn a profit, thereby boosting their income.

On the other side of the coin, Kenya has experienced extreme drought in recent years that has significantly reduced its grain production. The country also struggles with a lack of arable land to produce enough crops to meet the country’s growing demand.

The World Bank’s data shows that 34 percent of Uganda’s land is usable for farming whereas only 10 percent of Kenya’s land is healthy enough to produce crops. The Uganda-Kenya grain partnership will help bridge the gap between Kenya’s demand for grain and Uganda’s supply.

3. Smallholder farmers become the focus.

The partnership allows smallholder farmers to be linked to high paying buyers in Kenya. This agreement establishes a well-functioning regional market, which allows farmers to earn more money for their products than they would on their own.

The Uganda-Kenya grain partnership will also help to cut down on post-harvest losses by establishing a clean, reliable storage system.

This means that less food will go to waste and farmers will suffer fewer losses that cut into their income. More than 70,000 smallholder farmers are expected to benefit from the partnership.

The Uganda-Kenya grain partnership opens the door for thousands to better their lives by bridging the gap between Uganda’s supply of grain and Kenya’s growing demand for agricultural goods.

Hopes are high that this new avenue for trading will establish a strong economic relationship between Uganda and Kenya, which will allow both countries to prosper and take steps towards furthering developed.

Sara Christensen

Photo: Pixabay

Daniel Obare used to be a subsistence farmer. His family ate most of the tomatoes and green peppers he grew, and he sold the surplus on the side. Today, he cultivates watermelons on three acres of land and uses cutting-edge farming techniques. His family and him have experienced a huge lifestyle improvement thanks to the agricultural guidance of USAID’s Feed the Future initiative.

Most Tanzanian farmers do not have the training or equipment required to properly use chemical fertilizers and pesticides. They use untreated seeds planted at random distances apart in sunken beds and often rely on rainfall for precious irrigation. These inefficient techniques result in lower yields, farms that are more vulnerable to extreme weather and high levels of pollution caused by chemical runoff.

In September 2014, Obare attended a farmer’s convention in Mbeya called the Nane Nane Fair. There, he met members of the Tanzania Horticultural Association, a group run by Tanzanians and supported by USAID.

With their help, Obare learned more modern farming techniques and dramatically increased his yield. “My lifestyle has completely changed. For instance, my daughter, who was in a government school, has been transferred into a private school that has more facilities. I can confidently pay 1.5 million TZS [$740] for her annual school fees,” Obare said.

Obare’s experience in Tanzania is indicative of a greater trend throughout Africa. USAID’s Feed the Future initiative works in 12 African nations supporting groups like the Tanzania Horticultural Association. The programs differ by country, from the small farmer training and support in Tanzania to trade hub programs in Zambia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Malawi and Mozambique.

“The trade hub provides targeted technical assistance to governments, the private sector and civil society organizations to advance regional trade within southern Africa while incorporating gender integration, environment compliance and strategic outreach in all activities,” a USAID report stated.

Feed the Future is ultimately trying to give developing nations a strong economic base in sustainable agriculture. Their initiatives focus on efficiency, resilience in the face of a changing climate and gender equality. Their impact has been felt by small farmers and administrators alike.

James Bever, a former mission director for USAID, is enthusiastic about the program’s potential. When asked about the Feed the Future programs in Ghana, he told reporters that agribusiness has the potential to really take off, especially in northern Ghana.

“It is a sustainable model and we are extremely excited about it,” he said. “I think Ghana is in the path to an agricultural revolution that really can turn the northern part of the country to a bread basket and reduce imports. The north is where there is a real potential for quick improvement in grain production such as rice, white and yellow maize and sorghum, which are marketable.”

The dedication of local agricultural groups is turning USAID’s support into skills and their goals into reality. More farmers are being helped every day, and despite the challenges they face, small farmers in Africa are living markedly better lives.

– Marina Middleton

Sources: Feed the Future 1, Business Ghana USAID 1, Feed the Future 2 USAID 2
Photo: Flickr