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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  • Agro-pastoral Millet/Sorghum System (8 percent land area, 8 percent agriculture population in Sub-Saharan Africa)

    This farming system occurs generally in the semi-arid zone of West Africa from Senegal to Niger and in substantial areas of East and Southern Africa from Somalia and Ethiopia to South Africa. Population density is modest, but pressure on arable land is very high. Crops and livestock are of similar importance. Rainfed sorghum and pearl millet are the main sources of food and are marketed in small quantities, with occasional sales of sesame and pulses. Land preparation is by oxen or camel, while cultivation with hoes is common along riverbanks. Livestock provide milk and milk products; offspring; transportation (camels, donkeys); land preparation (oxen, camels);sale or exchange; savings; bride wealth and insurance against crop failure. The population tends to live in permanent villages, although part of their herds may continue to migrate seasonally with herd boys and through entrustment arrangements.The main vulnerability is drought. The farming system has suffered from insufficient and erratic rainfall during the past two decades, leading to low crop yields and the abandonment of groundnuts and late-maturing sorghum in some areas. There is an acute shortage of drinking water and firewood in certain areas. Soil fertility problems are emerging in the plains due to shortened fallow intervals and long periods of continuous cultivation. Land shortage is also a problem in the densely populated areas where soils are more fertile. Pressure on resources is expected to intensify in coming decades with the growth of human and livestock populations in the system.
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