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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  • Fisheries

    Current regional supply of fish falls short of demand and future projections to 2020 indicate that the supply-demand gap will continue to grow (Ye, 1999). In Africa as a whole, per capita supply of fish is declining (fao, 1999); in some countries the average diet contained even less fish protein in the 1990s than it did during the 1970s - the only geographic region of the world where this has occurred. There is considerable potential to enhance inland fisheries, but currently there are widespread concerns about over-fishing in inland waters, where habitats are degrading, water supplies are diminishing, and pollution is increasing. To sustain production there is a need for integrated approaches to river and lake-basin management and a focus on inland fisheries in planning and development.

    The larger capture fisheries of Lake Victoria and floodplains, such as the Inner Niger Delta, are best known and best documented. But the widely dispersed smaller systems are more accessible to poor households, who depend on this source for animal protein, minerals and vitamins (Thilsted and Roos, 1999: 61-69). In eastern and southern Africa alone there are somewhere between 50,000 to 100,000 small water bodies (Haight, 1994).

    Aquaculture must develop progressively to meet the projected increase in regional demand for fish protein. In addition, small-scale aquaculture could diversify livelihood options for poor farmers, increase income while reducing risk and vulnerability, and also lead to improved land and water management. For Sub-Saharan Africa alone, 9.2 million square-kilometres are suitable for smallholder fish farming. Only a fraction of these areas will be needed if fish harvests can reach the yields demonstrated on integrated farms (Kaptesky, 1995) - in Malawi and Zambia these yields are typically 1,500 kilograms per hectare per year (Brummett and Noble, 1995; Maguswi, 1994: 353-374). If only 1 percent of the almost 250 million hectare identified by FAO as suitable in southern Africa supported aquaculture enterprises, 3.75 million tonnes of fish per year might be produced. This is four times the reported catch from all capture fisheries in the region (Noble, 1996).

    Small-scale farmers have stayed away from aquaculture because it is not yet effectively integrated into the farm economy (Harrison et al., 1994; Stomal and Weigel, 1998; Brummett and Williams, 2000). Technical impediments include lack of high-quality fingerlings; the lack of good quality, low-cost feed; insufficient means to control diseases as production intensity increases; and the competition for water. Integrated approaches, such as aquaculture with agriculture, result in a reliable supply of fish and additional income, improved overall farm profitability, rehabilitation of farmland, and improved drought resistance, while the increased crop production helps farmers prepare to deal with crises (Noble, 1996).

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