Africa is rich in both natural and human resources, yet nearly 200 million of its people are undernourished because of inadequate food supplies. Comprehensive strategies are needed across the continent to harness the power of science and technology (S&T) in ways that boost agricultural productivity, profitability, and sustainability -- ultimately ensuring that all Africans have access to enough safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs. This report addresses the question of how science and technology can be mobilized to make that promise a reality.
This farming system is the most important food production system in East and Southern Africa, extending across plateau and highland areas. In West Africa similar systems are found in the highlands of western Cameroon and Nigeria. Climate varies from dry subhumid to moist subhumid. The farming system also contains some scattered mostly small-scale irrigation schemes. The main staple is maize and the main cash sources are migrant remittances, cattle, small ruminants, tobacco, coffee and cotton, plus sale of food crops such as maize, pulses and sunflower. Cattle are kept for ploughing, breeding, milk, farm manure, bride wealth, savings and emergency sale. In spite of scattered settlement patterns, community institutions and market linkages in the maize belt are better developed than in other farming systems.
Smallholders are vulnerable to drought and market volatility, and socio-economic differentiation is considerable due mainly to migration. But the system is currently in crisis: input use has fallen sharply due to the shortage of inputs such as seed and fertilizer and the high price of fertilizer. Consequently yields have fallen, and soil fertility is declining, while smallholders are reverting to extensive production practices, which are not very sustainable given their small farm sizes. Off-farm income is important for most households.