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Food, Jobs and Sustainability

What African Agriculture Needs to Achieve

Sabine Sütterlin, Alexandra Reinig, Reiner Klingholz
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Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest per capita income and the highest population growth of any region in the world. Only by promoting economic development and creating new opportunities for its population can the continent escape the dual trap of poverty and high fertility. African agriculture, dominated by a majority of smallholders, has a key role to play in this context. Although African farmers are currently unable to feed the continent’s population, they may benefit from European experiences and innovation by avoiding their mistakes.

Leapfrogging, i.e. skipping certain stages of technological development, allows economies to achieve higher yields by using resources intelligently and efficiently. If African countries succeed in linking farmers to markets, processing a greater share of raw materials in the regions where they are grown and reinvesting the gains in value added, they can initiate the structural changes necessary in rural areas to turn agriculture into a driver of development.

The Berlin Institute would like to thank the Bayer Foundation and the Friends of the Berlin Institute for supporting this research project.

Category: International population policies
published: 9th August 2018

Selected Figures

Since the early 1960s, the supply of food has improved in all regions of the world, except in Europe and Oceania, where it has been consistently stable. In some countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, the amount of food available is still lower than the average minimum energy requirement of 2,100 kilocalories per capita per day. Agriculture must first of all ensure food security. If it then succeeds in developing to a point where it gets more people into work, thereby giving them prospects for the future, it can drive development throughout the entire continent and ultimately help to curb population growth. © Berlin-Institut
Since the beginning of the Green Revolution in the 1960s, African farmers have only realised small increases in their yields compared with counterparts around the world. It is only in Southern Africa that progress is comparable to that in South America, Europe and Asia. Particularly South Africa has been successful in applying the main lessons from the Green Revolution. However, Southern African countries have also seen sharp falls in yields owing to droughts. © Berlin-Institut
Although Sub-Saharan Africa has five times as much agricultural land and twice the population of the European Union it produces less food. African farmers mainly grow starchy tubers such as manioc and yams and as well as cereals such as maize and sorghum. Cash crops like tea, coffee and cocoa, which are mainly exported, make up a marginal share of total output. European food production is more diverse. © Berlin-Institut


Sabine Sütterlin

Freelance research associate

Sabine Sütterlin freie wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin

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