Tag Archives: Food Production

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?

Practical solutions for a big challenge

Our civilization faces a great challenge: for the next 40 years we have to double the food output from our farms if we want the expected 9 billion people living then to be properly fed.

If that was not challenging enough, let´s add the restricted availability of the key ingredient: water. Not only an issue of quantity, but of the environmental impact that would cause having to double the volume of water that we currently use in agriculture.

Conclusion: we need to produce more (a lot more) with less (water among other inputs).

Obviously, this is a very simplistic and partially focused introduction of a much more complex subject. But this is enough to highlight the great relevance that should play the two means of production that we discuss on this post:

  • irrigation systems
  • greenhouses

Irrigation systems must become an indispensable and omnipresent actor in farms all across locations, like Africa and other underdeveloped regions, as much as it is today in the most advanced agricultural regions, like Europe and North America.

Rain-fed crops are no longer an option for the assurance of food supply to 9 billion people. Irrigating crops by traditional inundation practice, isn´t either a sustainable option. Only systems like drip irrigation and spray are seen as a viable alternative that can ensure a great increase in output production while preserving the natural reserves of water.

Efficiency of existing irrigation systems is big, but it´s expected that most evolved systems, like hydroponics, only implanted in the western world, do expand their presence and become the standard in those regions where today rain is the first irrigation system. With systems that require an extraction of water equivalent only to that the plants incorporate to their cells, plus the loses on evapotranspiration, we ensure that only the strictly necessary water is used. Efficiency at top level.

Greenhouses provide a big range of advantages to horticulture. Yet cereal crops are excluded, there´s still a big stake of the food diet that can be grown under protected environment.

The protection from weather and pest risks, provides outstanding conditions to multiply the yield of all crops by several times the standard in outdoor conditions in the same surface; crops can be grown during a longer period of the year (even the whole of it in some cases); the losses of production due to quality damages are minimized; the demand of inputs like water, fertilizers and agrochemicals is lower per kg of product obtained; the use of pesticides can be minimized or eradicated much more easily than in outdoor crops.

Add to all that the possibility to modify and control the interior climate conditions according to each crop, and the output is boosted.

The combination of Greenhouses and modern Irrigation Systems represent a mix of highest efficiency, and as such, them should play a significant role in the development of a new model of sustainable agriculture in those regions of the planet, where current practices are completely unviable to ensure food supply in the coming decades.

We are not facing a problem of having to solve a technological challenge; the existing technology is good enough and still evolves and improves day by day. What we face is a double challenge:

  • extending the presence of that technology to all regions of the world
  • divulge the necessary knowledge and expertise to make those systems works properly

Introducing AGROLUTION solutions for Africa

This is the video launched by AGROLUTION http://www.agrolution.com to introduce the range of services that provides for the development of agribusiness in Africa.

Top 5 Investment Opportunities In Africa For 2012 – Forbes

Top 5 Investment Opportunities In Africa For 2012 – Forbes.

Gallery

Agricultural progress and poverty reduction

Agricultural progress and poverty reduction.

The 8 pillars for Africa development

UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization) has recently released a book-report titled “Agribusiness for Africa´s Prosperity”, which is worth to read.

On this post, I will extract the centre part of the content, which is referred to what the editors call The Seven Core Pillars of Agribusiness Development in Africa, representing these, the key drivers for transforming challenges for agribusiness development into opportunities.

These 7 pillars are:

1. Enhancing agricultural productivity

2. Upgrading value chains

3. Exploiting local, regional and international demand

4. Strengthening technological efforts and innovation capabilities

5. Promoting effective and innovative sources of financing

6. Stimulating private sector participation

7. Improving infrastructure and energy access

Summarizing in a reduce number all the essential factors of something so extensive and complex as the development of Africa´s agribusiness -or food production system- is a highly tough exercise. I congratulate from here the editors for the job done.

Obviously, to other people´s eyes, these 7 pillars may be an incomplete list; others may consider  other the relevance of each,… it´s a subject for great debate.

I´d like to contribute and suggest one pillar which I find strategic: KNOWLEDGE.

I want to mean with Knowledge, the need to fix locally a minimum critical-mass degree of talent in all subjects related to agribusiness, that allows to perform some of the other pillars of development.

The developed world is helping Africa by sending huge quantities of physical inputs, such as seeds, fertilizers, money, etc. But talent is a much needed input virtually impossible to pack and ship from abroad. Furthermore, it´s absolutely essential that the required talent to be local, in order to create a real self-sustained path of development.

In this sense, I find a primary goal that an army of local agribusiness consultants and advisors is trained and intervene in the agribusiness industry of their respective countries, spreading the basic knowledge and solutions required locally for farmers, entrepreneurs, food producers, traders, etc. Consultants would do to the food industry what doctors and sanitary staff do on health care: cure diseases, relieve from the enemies of growth and promote measures for stronger and safer bodies.

This is my 8th pillar for development of Africa´s agribusiness. I invite you to leave your comments and opinion on this interesting theme.

Thanks.

WELCOME !!

It´s a enormous pleasure to welcome you to the Innovating Agribusiness Blog.

This, the first post, it´s obviously dedicated to the introduction of myself and the blog.

My name is José María Montalbán, though I thought that using a nick name could ease interaction with followers. Yes, my real name is a bit too long and complex. In some situations, when giving it to someone, I got back: “Sorry, did you say Mon-Taleban?”.

That´s why I chose Jose Monty as my public name.

I´m a spanish Agronomy Engineer, consultant and entrepeneur in Agribusiness, this is, anything related to businesses involved within the food and agricultural industry. More specifically, my 20 years of experience now, have run around the fresh fruits and vegetable sector and the modern horticulture.

Along all this time I had the opportunity to attend both, technical and managerial positions, in some reputed companies, and afterwards, work as a freelance consultant. This helped me to build a very broad vision and understanding of the complexities of this exciting business.

Moreover, I was lucky to have the chance of doing all this in an International environment, which makes it more enriching, professionally speaking. Lately, my experience have become specialized in the Arab Gulf region, where I discovered the huge potencial for the fresh produce industry, despite the apparently harsh conditions of Nature there. For that reason, I´m currently undertaking some investments and business ventures in the region.

My latest business project, AGROLUTION, is a company with the misión to serve all people, businesses and insitutions linked to the Fresh Produce World, by providing all kinds of Solutions, being these either goods or services. Agrolution is open to the world and specially to places most needed of support and assistance in the fostering of agriculture and food production, like extreme climate areas and developing countries.

So, around all that matter, I shall ellaborate content and collect information to be published in this blog, with the aim to make it useful and available to as many people as possible.

To make it even more valuable, you will also find here contributions of other experts and collaborators.

If you are a farmer, student, teacher, investor, businessman, official, trader, scientist, NGO, association, or any other agent type involved in Agribusiness, just follow this blog to obtain valuable information of your interest.

Thanks in advance for following.

See you soon !!