Agriculture will always be an important part of the economy in any part of the world. Food is the basic, most important need of every human being. Africa remains the most under-developed continent on earth with the highest level of food insecurity. It is true that the level of industrialization (read development) in a country or region has an effect on the standard of living and food security of the population. Many international humanitarian organizations, companies, and individuals are working to improve and increase the productivity, quality, and profitability of agriculture in Africa. Over the years there has been no substantial improvement and a lot of Africa’s population still suffers hunger and food insecurity.
Agriculture in Africa today
In recent times, increasing efforts have been made by the public and private sectors to increase food production and meet the under-served demand for food in Africa. Food insecurity, widespread starvation, and even famine have become common occurrences in recent times in Africa. Research from experts shows that the under-production of food in Africa can be linked to the under-development of some countries in certain ways. The developing countries of Africa rely on imports from developed countries in other continents to feed the majority of their population. Importation is not entirely bad, but in a nation where fertile land and water are available, it is a way more expensive option for feeding the population.
The key to increasing agricultural productivity and profitability
Africa’s full agricultural productivity potential remains untapped. Growth in agricultural productivity will inevitably mean an improved standard of living for small-holder farmers who make up about 70% of the food production force in sub-Saharan Africa. Different countries in Africa are facing different challenges in their economy and environment; this means that increasing the productivity of these countries can only be achieved by taking different approaches that suit the peculiar situation. Among the factors inhibiting the growth of agriculture on the continent, insecurity, bad government policies and lack of capital investment for farmers have played a major role in where Agriculture is in Africa today. Agricultural productivity will increase when investors start to take advantage of the under-served demands by investing in already existing small-scale farms to push them from medium to large scale producers.
As an individual or company already a part of, or looking to invest in agriculture, your key strategy to increasing food production should involve 3 major parameters:
i. Yield improvement: Increasing production through the cultivation of improved seeds, fertilizer, insecticide, and pesticide application.
iii. Land expansion
iv. Post-harvest loss reduction > Storage
Of course, these parameters may not all produce the desired result in different regions since each region has its peculiar setbacks. For instance, improving yield by using improved seed, fertilizer, and insecticide application may not necessarily translate to increased profit in regions where the comparative difference of the food prices makes the extra investment in improving yield unprofitable.
Unlike other continents in the world, Africa has the highest area of undeveloped and uncultivated land. Most farmers in Africa have small farms of less than 50 hectares. Strategies like farm aggregation and out-growers scheme can provide an opportunity for smallholder farmers to increase their productivity by expanding their farming area. It also provides an opportunity for mechanized farming, currently, research shows that the most used equipment for food cultivation in Africa is the hoe.
Mechanization is one area that is very significant in improving agricultural productivity. Currently, there is a shortage of machinery needed to expand production in the African region. This is partly a result of the capital intensiveness of mechanization. One of the ways to combat this obstacle is for the continent to look inward for the manufacturing of these tractors, planters, harvesters, etc. Self-producing these machinery will facilitate industrialization on the continent and also make them available at better rates for farmers and investors to purchase.
On the continent with the fastest-growing population, increasing food production provides an opportunity for improved profitability as food prices continue to sky-rocket because of increasing demand. There is, however, no shortcut to succeeding at agriculture in Africa as the continent continues to suffer a series of setbacks. The key to making the most out of agriculture in Africa is in understanding the value that lies in each individual crop, investing in mechanization and the improved yield of the high-value crops as well as having ready off-takers for your product (thereby disrupting the complex and less profitable supply-chain that is already existing).