Building resilience to climate risks in Africa’s agriculture
Agriculture represents tremendous opportunities for African economies. The sector contributed more than $100 billion to Africa’s GDP in 2016. But much of that potential could be realised if there are effective solutions addressing the factors that drive the underperformance trend in the sector.
Over 60 percent of the Sub-Saharan African population practises agriculture in rural areas, producing 60 – 70 percent of food consumed. The agricultural sector contributes to 70 percent of GDP in the region. But historically, low human capital, inadequate investment, adverse weather conditions and little-effective policy support have constituted the perfect storm for the low productivity of Africa’s agriculture.
The smallholder farmers that dominate the continent’s farm assets are poor, formally uneducated and unable to access finance and markets. Whereas there have been flurries of national and regional policies aimed at boosting Africa’s agriculture, delivery on commitments have been weak, not least because of the limitations of available budgets amidst competing needs. Only a handful of countries have been able to invest 10 percent of their budgets on agricultural development as stipulated in the Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security.
The reasons to find effective solutions to Africa’s agricultural challenges are compelling. The most important reason is that the problems are solvable. The continent holds more than half the reserves of the world’s uncultivated arable land. With the world’s population on course to rise to 9 billion by 2050, Africa holds the key to global food security. This also underlines the huge foreign exchange revenue potentials of our agriculture.
In the meantime, however, Africa’s agriculture has been synonymous with poverty. Our agrarian communities are the frontiers of under-development, where transport infrastructure and electricity supply are nearly non-existent; where disease burdens are high; and where access to quality education is abysmal. To make appreciable development progress in Africa, therefore, is to lift labour providers in agriculture out of poverty and successfully transform the agriculture value-chain to sustainable businesses.
The road to sustainable progress is long. Unfortunately, there has been a growing threat to sustainable progress in Africa’s agriculture, and development, more generally. This threat is climate change. Agriculture represents the gateway for the more endemic and sustained impact of climate change in Africa. Based on the sheer number of labour employed in the