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African Leaders Must Do More To Ensure Continent Meets Farming Potential

“Images of starving children, epitomized in news coverage from Ethiopia in the 1980s, have given Africa a reputation for famine that does an injustice to the continent’s potential,” Olusegun Obasanjo, former president of Nigeria and a member of the Africa Progress Panel, writes in a CNN opinion piece. “It’s true that a recent report by three U.N. agencies said nearly 239 million in Africa are hungry, a figure some 20 million higher than four years ago” and “recent crises in the Horn of Africa and Sahel certainly highlight the desperate uncertainties of food supply for millions — malnutrition still cuts deep scars into progress on health and education,” he states. “But the Africa Progress Panel and many others believe that Africa has the potential not only to feed itself, but also to become a major food supplier for the rest of the world,” he continues.

“Consider, for example, Africa’s agricultural land,” Obasanjo writes, noting, “According to an influential recent analysis, Africa has around 600 million hectares of uncultivated arable land, roughly 60 percent of the global total.” He discusses five areas in which “to increase agricultural productivity” on the continent. “First, African and donor agricultural policies must focus on the smallholder farmers”; “Second, African governments must deal with the land grab issue”; “Third, governments and others must help smallholder farmers manage risk more effectively”; “Fourth, we want to see the international community devote more money and more effort to improving food security and nutrition in Africa, an issue that goes to the heart of so many other development challenges”; and “Fifth, and finally, the international community should step up their support for climate change mitigation and adaptation,” Obasanjo writes, concluding, “African leaders and their partners must all do more to shape the continent’s mighty farming potential” (11/6).