Realizing the Promise and Potential of African Agriculture

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.

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.

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  • Cereal/Root Crop Mixed System (13 percent land area, 15 percent agriculture population in Sub-Saharan Africa)
    This farming system is mainly in the Guinea savannah. It shares some characteristics with the maize mixed system (such as 120-180 growing days with, in some areas, monomodal rainfall) but is located at lower altitude. Defining characteristics are relatively low population density, abundant arable land, poor communication infrastructure and higher temperatures. Presence of tsetse fly limits livestock numbers with consequent absence of animal traction in much of the area. Cereals such as maize, sorghum and millet are important, but wherever animal traction is absent, root crops such as yams and cassava take over. A wide range of crops is grown, and intercropping is important. The main vulnerability is drought, but the Guinea savannah represents one of the main under-utilized resources in the region. The abundant arable land tends to be under-utilized. Although crop rotation is possible, there are signs of fertility decline. Acidity has increased in some soils suggesting prolonged use of inorganic fertilizers without attention to organic matter levels. Application of mineral fertilizer to cereals has declined as they have become less affordable, and farmers now find difficulty in maintaining soil fertility. Weeds such as striga have become more difficult to control. In the northern part of the area, prolonged use of mechanization for land preparation has led to loss of soil structure and organic matter.
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