Tag Archives: agricultural production systems

SWOT Analysis of the African Agriculture

A very comprehensive and realistic SWOT Analysis has been carried out and published by the Montlpellier Panel, a group of reputed experts on agriculture, trade, sustainability and global development. The Panel is working together to make recommendations to enable better European government support of national and regional agricultural development and food security priorities in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Let´s have a look to their findings:

Strengths:

  • The diversity of African agricultural ecosystems furnishes resilience although this heterogeneity also requires sophisticated and nuanced management
  • Smallholder agriculture can be highly efficient producing five or more tons of grain per hectare with appropriate inputs and management
  • Farm-level production costs in Africa are often relatively low
  • There is a strong tradition of village-level farmer associations providing a basis for growth and innovation
  • Acceleration in GDP growth in SSA has been, in part, driven by faster agricultural growth
  • More organized and concerted African leadership through CAADP
  • Foreign direct investment (FDI) in the continent increased from US$2.4 billion in 1985 to US$55 billion in 2010 although most of this was in the oil and gas sectors

Weaknesses:

• A lack of coherent, cross-ministerial policies and leadership on agriculture

• Poor incentives for small business investment

• Access to input and output markets is often weak

• Average cereal yields are only one ton per hectare

• The predominant rainfed agriculture is vulnerable to unreliable and unpredictable rainfall

• Total agricultural R&D spending in Africa grew at only 1.9% between 2000 and 2008, although there is wide variability between countries

• African soils are heavily degraded and depleted of nutrients

• Tenure over more than 90% of land remains outside the formal legal system in Africa and is therefore at risk of dispossession.

• Agricultural mechanisation is poorly developed

Opportunities:

  • There is a large agricultural workforce: 65% of Africa’s population lives and works in rural areas
  • The workforce will be predominantly young: by 2040, one in five of the world’s young people will live in Africa
  • Large opportunities to improve yields through increasing fertilizer application rates and irrigating more land
  • Fertilisers are applied at average rates of about 11kg/ ha of arable land (compared to 154kg
    ha in India and 468kg/ha in China). There is a huge potential to use local African sources of rock phosphate fertilizer at affordable costs
  • Only around 4% of cultivated land in SSA is irrigated. Potentially over 20 million hectares of land under irrigation
  • Already in motion are agricultural growth corridor projects in areas with high agricultural potential that will stimulate investment and develop regional value chains
  • Mobile and internet connectivity is growing rapidly: mobile phone subscribers have risen from less than two million in 1998 to over 400 million in 2009 and internet users in SSA between 2005 and 2010 grew by almost 430%

Threats:

  • 80% of all African farms (33 million farms) are less than two hectares in size, which can increase transaction costs
  • The success of investments in agriculture depends on the engagement of women who make up 50% of the agricultural labour force and have relatively poor access to resources and services
  • SSA has many pests, diseases and weeds such as Striga, Black Sigatoka, Banana wilt, Cassava mosaic virus, Maize leaf streak, Maruca beetles, stem borers, downy mildew and locusts that are capable of destroying harvests
  • SSA farmers face the lowest agricultural incentives in the world
  • Three quarters of African countries are net importers of agricultural products and African trade tariffs are on average 50% higher than comparable tariffs in Latin America and Asia
  • Climate change is likely to reduce crop yields across much of SSA

Definitely, any plan to tackle the problem of food production in Africa cannot be simplistic, but to include actions from a very broad number of areas simultaneously. However, I would like to highlight a very clear conclusion derived from this analysis -in alignment with other similar reports-, and this is how important is for the future of a successful growth of agriculture in Africa the extensive implementation of those technologies of irrigation, crop protection and climate control, like greenhouses, which could be denominated as “modern” in the african context, though are long time existing in other parts of the world.

We don´t have to invent the wheel, we don´t have to test, but simply to transfer technology and know-how that are easily available and which results are predictably.

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Did you know…?

Dear all,

Find below some key figures that help to figure out in our minds a broad picture of essential facts of world agriculture.

So, did you know that…

  • World agricultural production has grown nearly 300%  over the last 50 years, while the cultivated area only did it by 12%. Furthermore, more than 40% of the increase in food production came from irrigated areas.
  • In the same period, global cultivated land per person declined from 0,44 to 0,25 Has/person. This shows how successful intensive agriculture has become.
  • Rainfed agriculture is the world´s predominant agricultural system. Current productivity of rainfed systems is, on average, 50% of its potential, and in the poorest countries only 20%. Increasing climate variability is bringing grater uncertainty in production levels.
  • Around 350 million people were affected by drought and other natural disasters between 2010 and 2011, mostly in Africa and Asia.
  • Until 2000, agriculture was the mainstay of employment around the world. Since then, the services sector has assumed this mantle and the gap between the two has widened. Although employment growth in agriculture has slowed, the number of workers in this sector reached over 1 billion in 2009. In sub-Saharan Africa, growth in agricultural employment accounted for half of all employment growth between 1999 and 2009.
  • In the coming decades, climate change may bring further risks and unpredictability to harvests; it is anticipated that key agricultural systems will have to cope with new temperature, humidity and water stress.

(Source: FAO)

To me, all the above mentioned clearly shows:

  • How successful agricultural intensification has been.
  • The need to increase the efficiency of land and water use.
  • The need to prevent food production be affected by weather conditions.
  • It also leads to the consideration of modern intensive agricultural production systems as an strategic pillar of the food sufficiency in this planet.

What do you think?