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

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine Could Be in Use by January

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa 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.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7798
JPY
USD
106.41
GBP
USD
0.6203
CAD
USD
1.1242
INR
USD
61.430

Rates may not be current.