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

China’s Influence Grows With New Infrastructure Bank

Multibillion-dollar China-backed and BRICS-supported Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank seen as possible challenger to such lenders as IMF, World Bank More

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

Rabbi Michel Serfaty makes the rounds in his friendship bus to encourage dialogue and break down barriers between the two groups More

Post-deal Iran Leaders Need 'Economic Momentum' to Solidify Power Base

Economists say deal could inject more than $100 billion into coffers - not enough to entirely rescue ailing economy - but maybe adequate to create 'economic momentum' 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.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8926
JPY
USD
123.71
GBP
USD
0.6358
CAD
USD
1.2364
INR
USD
63.600

Rates may not be current.