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Development Expert Says Africa Can be Food Self-Suffient

Kenyan-born Calestous Juma of Harvard University says Africa can feed itself in a generation if its farmers embrace modern technology

Development Expert Says Africa Can be Food Self-Suffient
Development Expert Says Africa Can be Food Self-Suffient

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  • Kenyan-born Harvard professor Calestous Juma spoke with Butty

James Butty

A Harvard University professor said Africa can feed itself within a generation if the continent’s farmers embrace modern technology.

Kenyan-born Calestous Juma, professor of The Practice of International Development at The Kennedy School Thursday told leaders from the East African Community, meeting in Arusha, Tanzania, that African governments should also expand their infrastructure.

“Africa can feed itself in one generation and this is because of a confluence of three important factors, the first being the availability of large quantities of scientific and technical knowledge, including mobile phones, the benefits of genetic modification, new space-related technology like geographic information system (GPS). Those are technologies that were never available to Africa before, not even available to Africa’s predecessors,” he said.

Juma said the other factors that could hasten Africa’s food self-sufficiency in the next generation include the emergence of regional markets, whereby African countries can collaborate to create regional markets.

He also cited the emergence of a new generation of African leaders, who are focused on the economic transformation of the continent with emphasis on agricultural economies in rural areas.

Juma said Africa’s majority subsistence farmers can continue to play an important role in food production once the continent’s infrastructure is improved.

“Most people who rely on subsistence agriculture do so because they cannot basically move their produce to market, and one of the reasons they cannot do that is the absence of infrastructure like roads, and, if they cannot process their produce, they will only have enough to consume themselves.”

He said the availability of energy is also a crucial factor in Africa’s infrastructure.

Juma said he agrees with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report which says hunger exists around world because of the lack of enough investment in agriculture in the rural areas of Africa.

“There has been very little investment in rural Africa to stimulate agricultural development and, as a consequence, basically, people in those regions just grow enough just to feed them rather than to trade because there’s no infrastructure that allows them to trade.

He said he is confident East African leaders will come up with the right policies that will enable the region to feed itself.

“The East African leaders meeting here in Arusha will be issuing a communiqué on Friday afternoon, and that communiqué will give a clear indication of the kinds of issues they would like to pursue, the kind of programs they would like to move with, and the level of political commitment they have to those issues. But, there is no doubt in my mind that East African presidents are very determined to come up with the strategies that enable the region to feed itself,” Juma said.

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