Crop production in the Southern region of Africa has been curtailed by the worst drought to have hit the region in the past decade, meteorologists say. A green revolution in African agriculture may however be the answer to strengthening agricultural output in the face of climate change on the continent.
According to recent Skymet reports, the drought enhanced by climate change is affecting most parts of southern Africa from southern Angola to Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Namibia.
“The most affected crop is maize. Zimbabwe’s 2015 forecast for maize is about 950,000 tonnes which is far less than the 1.8 million tonnes that the people of Zimbabwe need. The authorities in Zimbabwe plan to import 700,000 tonnes of maize which would cost around $168 million,” reads the Skymet report.
“Neighbouring Zambia and South Africa from which Zimbabwe has imported maize in the past also face significantly low harvest this year.”
In addition to this, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) 2015 structural deficits in maize production in southern African countries estimate that South Africa has a maize production deficit of -16%, Zimbabwe a deficit of -35%, Namibia -23%, Malawi -23%, Swaziland -4%, Lesotho -4% while Mozambique remains self sufficient with an estimated production of 2%.
Furthermore Zimbabwe’s Tobacco industry and Marketing Board recently released figures to the media stating that Zimbabwe’s tobacco sales have dropped 8.5 percent to 188.5 million kilogrammes this year after drought in southern Africa affected production.
However the World Economic Forum in their Africa Competitiveness report 2015 suggests that Africa adopts a green revolution in order to curb the downward spiral of agricultural output on the continent. The green revolution was a period in which agriculture in Asia, particularly in India, increased its yields due to improved agronomic technology.
Asian countries benefitted from the green revolution as they doubled cereal production between 1970 and 1995, while the total land area cultivated with cereals increased by only 4%.
“Drawing lessons from India’s experience, this success has been attributed to several factors. First, the adoption of high-yielding seed varieties resulted in a substantial increase in food grain production, particularly wheat and rice,” states the World Economic Forum.
“Second, the use of pesticides positively contributed to increased yields, albeit at the expense of the environment. Third, the availability and expansion of agricultural infrastructure facilities such as irrigation facilities, machinery, extension services, and broader infrastructure facilities—including transport and communication as well as storage and warehousing facilities—further supported the green revolution.”
The World Economic Forum said the fourth factor was the expansion of better crop and soil management techniques, including multiple cropping practices, fostered the advance of the green revolution.
“Fifth, agricultural credit and land reform were crucial ingredients that enhanced agricultural productivity. Short-term credit facilities were provided by cooperative banks, while long-term credit was provided by development banks. This was done together with land reforms aimed at consolidating land holdings and giving farmers security of tenure, thereby enabling farmers to access credit facilities,” stated the World Economic Forum.
Africa’s low investment in agriculture has also led to over reliance on rain-fed farming with very little irrigation thereby making African crop yields severely reduced during drought periods.
The World Economic Forum in its African Competitiveness Report 2015 also notes that the irrigated share of Africa’s cropland is less than a quarter of the world average
“Only 4% of crop areas are irrigated in sub-Saharan Africa; in comparison, this represents only a small fraction of the Asian investment in irrigation, where 39% of the production area is irrigated in South Asia and 29% in East Asia.”
Thus a green revolution approach to enhancing African agriculture can be adopted by African nations in order to increase agricultural output in the face of climate change and droughts. This can be further strengthened by increased investment in irrigation technologies in addition to good governance and management of agricultural institutions.