News / Economy

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

A farmer works his field on the outskirts of the capital Bangui, Central African Republic, March 22, 2014.
A farmer works his field on the outskirts of the capital Bangui, Central African Republic, March 22, 2014.
Jennifer Lazuta

Agricultural experts say that small-scale farmers in Africa can play a key role in ending food insecurity in the region - if they are included in the value chain. Small-scale farmers produce an estimated 80 percent of the continent’s food each year, but most lack the capacities to sell their crops in commercial markets.

Sub-Saharan African countries continue to import more food each year than they export. An estimated 60 percent of the world’s uncultivated farmable land is in Africa, but many people still don’t have enough to eat.

Experts say that small-scale farmers could be the key to reducing this food insecurity, as well as stimulating economic growth, and reducing poverty and unemployment.

Adebayo Olukoshi, the director of the U.N.’s African Institute for Economic Development and Planning (IDEP), says small-scale farmers can play an important role in a country’s agricultural development.           

“The smallholder continues to be a key player in the African continent. They constitute the bedrock of the agricultural farming population… So it is clear that if the bulk of the agricultural population is of a smallholder nature, than almost by definition, no strategy of food security can be really, truly effective if it does not integrate them fully,” he said.

Global provider

Olukoshi said that not only would more productive smallholders give Africa the potential to feed itself, they could also help African countries serve as a “food basket” for the rest of the world.

But as the number of large-scale industrial farms increases, getting involved in the export market can be near impossible for most smallholder farmers.
 
“Before you can export, you need to be a big producer," said Edouard Diatta, a rice farmer from Senegal’s southern Casamance region. "Here, in Casamance, we produce just enough to feed ourselves. We grow only what is necessary for our diets. Are there people interested in buying our rice? I don’t know. But even if there were, the quantity we produce now doesn’t allow for exporting.”

The coordinator for West and Central Africa’s Conference of Agricultural Ministers, Baba Dioum, said farmers such as Diatta face four key obstacles when it comes to accessing a larger market.

“The first constraint is that there isn’t good organization among smallholder farmers," he said. "The second is that they don’t have the capacity to manage new technological innovations. The third constraint is that they don’t have the financial means to scale up production.  And the fourth is that they don’t have the commercial capacity to be competitive in the global market.”

Game plan

Dioum said many small-scale farmers also depend on rain-fed agriculture. If the rains fail, then the crops fail, and many farmers are reluctant to invest in something that could lose money.

He said that before farmers can scale up, they need to know who they are producing for, and have a guarantee that they can sell what they grow and receive a fair price.

“It would be very difficult for me to produce enough tons to export," said Juliana Diatta, who grows rice and peanuts on a small plot of land in Mossor, a rural village about 45 kilometers west of Ziguinchor. "Sometimes there are problems with rain, or insect attacks. You lose crops. You also need a lot of land, which takes money to obtain. You would need pesticides and fertilizers. And where would you get machines? It isn’t easy without any means.”

Experts say that giving small-scale farmers access to credit or microloans could help them increase their output. Crop insurance might encourage smallholders to scale up their production.

Better agricultural infrastructure, such as storage facilities, irrigation systems and road systems, as well as better access to market information, also is needed.

You May Like

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Crowdfunding Helps Save Neil Armstrong's Spacesuit

Smithsonian turns to Kickstarter to raise more than $700,000 to help preserve the spacesuit worn by the first man to walk on the moon More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: AUBREY . K. CHINDEFU from: LUSAKA ZAMBIA
July 31, 2014 2:49 AM
African farmers also lack the goodwill to utilise their edge on certain crops in comparison to other farmers in differenet continents. we need to engage the small farmers who have an advantage taking into consideration water resources, which is abandant on the continent, to venture into exporting to other continents. It is only through such explorations that African farm produce will have a value added advantage over others.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8978
JPY
USD
119.24
GBP
USD
0.6567
CAD
USD
1.3230
INR
USD
66.495

Rates may not be current.