Published On: Wed, Apr 17th, 2013

African Governments Urged to Improve Rural Markets

LONDON,  African governments have been urged to increase investment in rural agricultural market systems and linkages to increase output and achieve food sustainability.

A report by an international think-tank – the Montpellier Panel – to be released in London Thursday, April 18 2013, also calls on sub-Saharan governments to improve the accessibility of credit and inputs to small-holder farmers.   It also mentions the importance of land and water rights for the growth of agriculture on the continent.

The Montpellier Panel is a body of international experts in agriculture, sustainable development, trade, policy and global development chaired by Professor Sir Gordon Conway of Agriculture for Impact. Since March 2010, the Panel has made recommendations to EU governments to enable better international support of national and regional agricultural development and food security priorities in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Panel says “Sustainable Intensification” – producing more outputs with better and efficient use of all inputs on a durable basis, while reducing environmental damage and building resilience, natural capital and the flow of environmental services – has become synonymous with big, industrial agriculture.

Its lists some examples of “Sustainable Intensification” as; micro-dosing of fertilizer in Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, using the cap of a soda bottle to measure precise amounts of nutrients for each seed hole, and “Conservation Farming in Zambia” as a replacement for the traditional long fallow system of the region.

The Montpellier Report outlines four principles essential in delivering the ambitious objectives of “Sustainable Intensification”. These are:
Prudent, in the use of inputs, particularly those which are scarce, are expensive and/or encourage natural resource degradation and environmental problems;

  • Efficient, in seeking returns and in reducing waste and unnecessary use of scarce inorganic and natural inputs;
  • Resilient, to future shocks and stresses that may threaten the natural and farming systems;
  • Equitable, in that the inputs and outputs of intensification are accessible and affordable amongst beneficiaries at the household, village, regional or national level to ensure the potential to sustainably intensify is an opportunity for all.

Overview of demand and supply challenges for sub-Saharan Africa, according to the Montpellier Panel

Demand ChallengesSupply Challenges
Over 200 million people, nearly 23%, of the African population, are now classed as hungry. On present trends, African food production systems will only be able to meet 13% of the continent’s food needs by 2050.
Despite declines up to 2007, hunger levels have been rising 2% per year since then.More than 95 million ha of arable land, or 75% of the total in SSA, has degraded or highly degraded soil, and farmers lose eight million tons of soil nutrients each year, estimated to be worth $4 billion.
40% of children under the age of five in SSA are stunted due to malnutrition.Nearly 3.3 % of agricultural GDP in SSA is lost annually because of soil and nutrient loss.
SSA has a population of around 875m, with an average annual growth rate of 2.5%. Cereal yields have increased by over 200% in Asia and Latin America but only by 90% in Africa, between 1961 and 2011.
The population in SSA will almost double by 2050, to close to two billion people. In SSA only 4% of cultivated land is irrigated.
Between now and 2100 three out of every four people added to the planet will live in SSA. In SSA only about seven million ha of new land have been brought into production between 2005 and 2010.
50% of the population will live in cities by 2030.Between 1991 and 2009 per capita arable land fell by about 76m2 per year.
Declines in total fertility rates in SSA are occurring later and slower than in Asia and Latin America.Under moderate climate change with no adaptation, total agricultural production will reduce by 1.5% in 2050.
Incomes are rising with GDP per capita in SSA expected to reach $5,600 by 2060, and diets already beginning to change.