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

    US Lawmakers Vow to Continue Immigrant Program for Afghan Interpreters

    Congressional inaction threatens funding for effort which began in 2008 and has allowed more than 20,000 interpreters, their family members to immigrate to US

    Brexit's Impact on Russia Stirs Concern

    Some analysts see Brexit aiding Putin's plans to destabilize European politics; others note that an economically unstable Europe is not in Moscow's interests

    US to Train Cambodian Government on Combating Cybercrime

    Concerns raised over drafting of law, as critics fear cybercrime regulations could be used to restrict freedom of expression and stifle political dissent

    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.
    Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roari
    X
    June 28, 2016 10:33 AM
    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.9030
    JPY
    USD
    102.41
    GBP
    USD
    0.7470
    CAD
    USD
    1.3038
    INR
    USD
    67.919

    Rates may not be current.