Green Revolutions for Sub-Saharan Africa?

Chatham House In most of sub-Saharan Africa, faster growth in agriculture is a precondition for sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction. This will require technical progress tailored to Africa’s varied agro-ecologies, notably improved seeds, more fertilizer and water management. Models of how to do this are available from Asia’s Green Revolution and from some recent African success stories.

Africa is short of capital and increasingly land-scarce. It also has many underemployed poor people. Asian experience shows that in such conditions employment-intensive, small-scale farming is usually both more efficient and more pro-poor than available alternatives.

Current foreign land acquisitions in Africa will serve its interests only if they underpin the development of scientific, labour-absorbing and usually small-scale farming. In some former ‘settler economies’, progress will require careful land reform.

Other requirements are improvements in infrastructure and institutions – transport, marketing facilities, credit and insurance – tailored to the needs of small- and medium-scale farming. Markets and states need one another.

Recent progress – through increased shares of public resources devoted to agriculture, donor pledges, some improved output trends and better access for sub-Saharan farm products to world markets – is real but overstated; much more needs to be done.

Read the briefing paper on Green Revolutions in Sub-Saharan Africa here.

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