Increasing food production

Sunday January 14 2018

By Michael J. Ssali

Last year the number of food insecure people in Africa rose from 220 million to 224million.
In its Regional Overview report the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) attributed the unfortunate rise to the changing weather patterns that caused poor harvests, loss of livestock, civil conflicts, and recurrent droughts. However in the past decade several African countries adopted new initiatives that have greatly improved food production according to an article written by Esther Ndumi Ngumbi in The Conversation in Africa magazine. Ngumbi, a Research Fellow with the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at Auburn University observed that the ability to increase agricultural production depends on political will and the effectiveness of governments and national strategies in the agricultural sector.
Mauritius, South Africa, Ghana, Namibia, Senegal, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Namibia, Kenya, and Tanzania are among the countries that increased their agricultural production due the use of new agricultural production technologies provided by governments, aid agencies, and entrepreneurs. In Rwanda, for instance, farmers increased productivity due to solar-powered irrigation technology.
In Nigeria, increased agricultural productivity was linked to the use of smart and affordable tractors by smallholder farmers. In Kenya, the practice of conservation agriculture has resulted in bigger yields. Ethiopia’s wheat production rose by 14 per cent due to newer agricultural technologies. There were also new initiatives in agricultural financing to help poor farmers without collateral to access credit. Tanzania rolled out a toolkit which allowed farmers to prepay for agricultural inputs using mobile money. Some countries, like Nigeria, introduced subsidies which enabled farmers get inputs at affordable prices. In 2017 Nigeria’s fertilizer initiative delivered over four million bags of fertilizer to farmers.
On its own the country has so far completed irrigation of farms covering over 33,000 hectares. Recently the World Bank offered to inject $495 million in Nigeria’s irrigation schemes.
The West African country boasts of potential irrigable area of 21 million hectares – about the size of Italy. In Rwanda, the government has made a commitment to irrigate over 44,000 hectares to help farmers cope with climate change. Malawi has followed suit with an initiative to irrigate over 100,000 hectares across the country.