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.
The tree crop farming system runs from Cote d'Ivoire to Ghana and from Nigeria and Cameroon to Gabon, with smaller pockets in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The backbone of the system is the production of industrial tree crops - notably cocoa, coffee, oil palm and rubber. Food crops are inter-planted between tree crops and are grown mainly for subsistence. Roots and tubers (cassava, cocoyam and yam) are the main staples; tree crops and off-farm activities are the main sources of cash. Livestock keeping is limited by tsetse fly infestation in many areas, and land preparation is by hand. The main animal species are pigs and poultry. Fish farming is popular in some areas. Off-farm activities are relatively well developed. There are also commercial tree crop estates (particularly for oil palm and rubber) in these areas, providing services to smallholder tree crop farmers through nucleus estate and outgrow schemes. A variant of the tree crop system is the rice/tree crop system located in Madagascar - mostly in the moist subhumid and humid zones - in which banana and coffee cultivation is complemented by cassava, legumes, maize and rice.
Since neither tree crop nor food crop failure is common, price fluctuations for industrial crops constitute the main vulnerability. Socio-economic differentiation is considerable, but growth potential is moderately high. The main trends affecting the system relate to population pressure on natural resources, declining terms of trade and market share, dismantling of parastatal input supply and marketing services, and withdrawal of the public sector from industrial crop research and extension.