Recent Podcast with MSU Professor Emeritus Envisions the Future of African Agriculture

Podcast emphasizes the need for African agricultural research and development with a panel of speakers including professor emeritus Thom Jayne

A recent podcast by the African Green Revolution Forum 2021 (AGRF2021) brought together a panel of expert speakers including Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics (AFRE) University Foundation Professor emeritus Thom Jayne  and panel members from Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa to discuss the report commissioned by the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD) on “Agricultural Productivity Growth, Resilience, and Economic Transformation in Sub-Saharan Africa IMPLICATIONS FOR USAID”. The discussion centered around African development and how best Sub-Saharan African countries can work to increase productivity, resilience, and economic transformation.

Jayne shared five key findings from the report he co-wrote with Louise Fox, Keith Fuglie, and AFRE faculty and Food Security Group (FSG) member Adesoji Adelaja:

  1. There is clear evidence of profound economic transformation in Sub-Saharan Africa. Indicators including health, live expectancy, financial inclusion, government effectiveness and resilience have improved. Jayne pointed out that this was a positive message that he believed is under appreciated.
  2. Africa has the highest rate of agricultural growth in the world, growing 4% per year versus the worldwide average of 2.5%. He noted that most of that production growth comes from expansion of area under cultivation.
  3. There is great diversity in Africa, and policy recommendation will likely be over generalized if they are not tailored to the needs of the individual countries.
  4. African governments spend much less on agricultural extension and research and development than other governments.
  5. Farmers need incentives to farm more intensively, not just to have technologies available to them. Market infrastructure, stable trade and macroeconomic policies, and improvements in education are some of the most important incentives to intensive farming.

All the panelist agreed that investment in research and development is a precondition for raising agricultural yields in Africa toward international averages. The debate on how to implement that in practice was lively, with a dichotomy developing between a focus on private sector investment and governmental spending. It was clear to all that food production needed to continue to increase, and that converting more forest and grasslands to fields was not feasible or environmentally sustainable.

Most African countries need to pivot toward increasing the yield of current cultivated land. Ethiopia was held up as an excellent example of a country that has successfully invested in R&D and extension.  With half of Sub-Saharan Africa’s extension workers, and a commitment to an agricultural R&D budget they’ve seen significant increases in yield. It was suggested that investing just 1% of GDP in agricultural R&D could result in large increases in crop yields and achieve more rapid economic transformation.

Overall, the podcast was very positive, and there was great hope that in the coming decade the growing group of highly educated Africans will leverage their skills and knowledge to do the research and create policy recommendations that will facilitate private investment in the infrastructure Africa needs to feed itself.

Listen to the AGRF podcast here.

Read the Agrilinks article here.

Read the BIFAD report here.


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