State of the Planet

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Will Africa Finally Achieve a Green Revolution?

Africa, agriculture
Sub-Saharan Africa is showing signs of a turnaround on agriculture and could be able to more reliably feed its growing population by 2050.

Africa was bypassed by the “Green Revolution” that has enabled much of the world to expand food production to feed our ever-expanding population. Many countries south of the Sahara, while having some of the highest population growth rates, still struggle to feed themselves.

But that may be changing.

Earth Institute agricultural scientist Pedro A. Sanchez argues in a new essay that new developments in both science and politics give him hope that sub-Saharan Africa will be able to feed itself by 2050, even with a projected population by then of about 2 billion people.

“The situation has changed very much for the better since 2005,” Sanchez writes in an opinion piece published online by the Thompson-Reuters Foundation on Oct. 31. “Cereal yields are up by 50 percent, still a miserable 1.5 tons/hectare, but the trend is up for the first time since records were kept. Out of the 49 countries of sub-Saharan Africa, 17 have already achieved the hunger Millennium Development Goal, including the two most populous, Nigeria and Ethiopia.”

Sanchez credits the changing trend to several factors:

  • An increase in the number of democratic states and improvements in governance, coupled with a jump in economic growth in many states.
  • More focus by public groups and private companies on the problem, with an increase in subsidies for agricultural inputs such as fertilizers, plus a broader offering of credit and risk sharing systems.
  • Improved seeds and agricultural practices.
  • Better market access, along with improved processing, transportation and distribution of crops.

Sanchez is director of the Agriculture and Food Security Center and senior research scholar at The Earth Institute. You can read the full text of Sanchez’s piece here. The webpage also offers an interesting list of further reading on the topic of feeding 9 billion people by 2050.

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Gerry Attrickseeker
9 years ago

While improved food production is certainly good news, the report simply accepts the idea that there must be a huge increase in population over the next few decades.
Even if hundreds of millions of additional people can be fed, their existence will wreak havoc on the planet. Presumably the additional billion Africans, along with similarly surging populations in south Asia and elsewhere, will aspire to American style (or at least Chinese style) affluence with the attendant disastrous impacts on resource use, pollution, species extinction and global warming.
In Africa and around the developing world, investments in agriculture and industrialization dwarf investments in population control. Maybe priorities should be reversed.