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August 23rd, 2017 / The Conversation

Sub-Saharan Africa has huge potential to become a global food basket, but it is far from being realised. The region is estimated to have 60% of the globally available and unexploited arable land yet it remains food deficient.

Even when arable land is cultivated, hurdles such as limited irrigation, small sized farms, lack of fertiliser and modern agro-technology has kept productivity low. Currently, Africa’s shortfall in agricultural output is met by food imports that are expected to grow from USD$35 billion in 2015 to approximately USD$110 billion in 2025.

Low productivity and increasing food demand – due to a 3% per year population growth rate – requires that food production be increased by 60% over the next 15 years.

India’s “Green Revolution” could be a useful model if adapted to African conditions. Half a century ago the country too had an underdeveloped agriculture sector. In the mid 1960s and early 1970s, the it faced serious food shortages. And then severe famines in 1965-1966 in eastern India compelled the country to look to food aid.

The severity of the crisis gave birth to a new approach to agriculture. Known as the Green Revolution, the policy involved improvements in technology combined with state led initiatives to support farmers. Less than 10 years later India was self-sufficient in cereals.

Though imperfect, the “Green Revolution” model offers important lessons for countries in the sub Saharan region. It underscores the importance of government support for agriculture as well as investment in technology such as irrigation, mechanisation and inputs to improve yields. Sub-Saharan Africa could learn from the Indian experience. Read more