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Group Title: Special report
Title: Africa, the potential for higher food production
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00081826/00001
 Material Information
Title: Africa, the potential for higher food production April 1985
Series Title: Special report
Physical Description: 8 p. : ill., maps ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: United States -- Dept. of State. -- Office of Public Communication. -- Editorial Division
Publisher: U.S. Dept. of State, Bureau of Public Affairs, Office of Public Communication, Editorial Division,
U.S. Dept. of State, Bureau of Public Affairs, Office of Public Communication, Editorial Division
Place of Publication: Washington D.C
Publication Date: 1985
Copyright Date: 1985
Subject: Agricultural productivity -- Africa   ( lcsh )
Crop yields -- Africa   ( lcsh )
Genre: federal government publication   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: Ethiopia
General Note: Cover title.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00081826
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 12064935

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
    Back Cover
        Page 9
Full Text

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Africa: The Potential for

Higher Food Production

L April 1985

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Africa is suffering from a severe The A
drought and widespread famine. Untold
thousands of Africans have perished, Africa is
and an estimated 20 million require where p
urgent assistance-food, medical care, fallen ov
and shelter-if they are to survive. It is before t
without question the most serious 20% of
emergency Africa has faced since in- less thai
dependence. This paper focuses on the calories
promising developments in agricultural Child mi
research that in time could lead to double t
substantially increased food production tries. Sc
in Africa and alleviate future tragedies, been aff
It also considers the need for reform in ages.
the policy sector and describes U.S. food Afri
assistance to Africa. sources
Although little can be done to elim- and com
inate drought, which occurs periodically risen at
in Africa, much can be done to avoid past 20
famine. Drought has been transformed more th:
into famine by resource degradation, cluding
high population growth rates, and the trends c
absence of growth in farm output, markedl
Famine, in turn, has been aggravated by product
mistaken national policies and armed from 191
conflict. Nonetheless, Africa does have to the d
the potential to produce sufficient food compon
for its increasing population and thereby Afri
reduce its vulnerability to future straints-
droughts. This potential depends greatly soils, a
upon the ability of African governments soil temr
to implement effective national policies and unic
that support small farmers and en- been she
courage the development and use of their fie
relevant technology, yields ai

agricultural Crisis

s the only region in the world
er capital food production has
ver the past two decades. Even
he current drought, more than
Africa's population consumed
n the minimum number of
needed to sustain good health.
mortality in sub-Saharan Africa is
he rate of all developing coun-
me 36 countries have recently
ected by abnormal food short-

ca's dependence on outside food
is growing at an alarming pace,
inercial imports of grain have
an annual rate of 9% during the
years. Africa normally imports
an 10 million tons of cereals, ex-
current emergency needs; if
continue, this deficit will increase
y. Per capital gross domestic
declined by 3%-4% per year
81 to 1983-attributable largely
decline in agriculture, the primary
ent of most African economies.
ca has serious agricultural con-
-insufficient rainfall, fragile
variety of microclimates, high
peratures, extreme seasonability,
lue insect pests. Farmers have
)rtening the fallow periods for
Ids, which has led to decreased
id increased soil erosion.
of forests for firewood and in-
grazing also have contributed to
High population growth rates

have stretched most African nations to
the production limits of their traditional
Nonetheless, Africa's agroclimatic
resources appear adequate to feed its
growing population. The African climate
probably has not undergone any fun-
damental change for the worse. Africa
always has been subjected to periodic
droughts, as well as to longer term
variations in rainfall. The best time-
series data on the Sahel region indicate
that the 1950s and 1960s were some-
what wetter than normal, and thus the
desert may have "receded" during those
years. Moreover, advances resulting
from agricultural research-such as
more drought-resistant plant
varieties-should help to increase
African food productivity. African plant
life already has demonstrated extraor-
dinary resilience, and when the current
drought ends, the African nations will
have major opportunities to improve
both their food productivity and their
conservation policies.
Political constraints also have
limited agricultural productivity. Two
decades after independence, African
leaders are confronted with difficult
choices and overwhelming economic
obstacles that would try the patience
and administrative capacity of more ex-
perienced governments elsewhere in the
world. These leaders often have adopted
policies that have discouraged farm pro-





duction in order to favor politically in-
fluential urban populations. However,
African governments are increasingly
aware that they will need to provide
more effective support for the small
farmer in order to increase domestic
food production and to reduce
vulnerability to droughts and reliance on
imported food.

The Promise of
Agricultural Research

Agricultural research is beginning to
offer Africa the promise of improved
food productivity in many areas.

New Plant Varieties
Sorghum. Africa may be experiencing a
cereal crop breakthrough in sorghum. A
new hybrid sorghum has been developed
in Sudan by a U.S. university-trained
Ethiopian plant breeder, the Interna-
tional Center for Research in the Semi-
Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), and the U.S.
Agency for International Development
(AID) through the INSTORMIL (Title
XII Collaboration Research Support Pro-
gram for sorghum and millet) and the
AID Mission in Khartoum. This new
hybrid could double or triple sorghum
yields in Sudan, which possesses large
areas of underused cropland. Equally
important, it has shown drought
tolerance. The new hybrid sorghum pro-
duces about 4,000 kilograms per hectare
(2.47 acres)-while traditional varieties
produce about 2,000 kilograms under
normal growing conditions.
The new sorghum, which seems to
tolerate a broad range of soils and
stresses, may further increase African
food supplies by supplanting corn grown
on land where low rainfall makes corn a
marginal crop. Field trials are being in-
itiated in other drought-prone African
nations-such as Kenya, Tanzania,
Zaire, and Zimbabwe-where the
sorghum also could become an important
cereal crop.
Enough seed has been produced to
plant 100,000 acres in Sudan for 19S5,
and a U.S. company is trying to
establish a joint venture with Sudan to
produce the seed locally. However,

Top: With the assistance of an AID-funded
agricultural extension program in Kenya, a
women's farming cooperative has increased
its yield. (AID photo)
Middle: A free market economy and AID
projects contribute to surplus millet pro-
duction in southern Mali. (AID photo)
Bottom: An AID project in Niger helps to
produce drought-resistant sorghum.
(AID photo)

significant changes in farmers' attitudes
and in government policies will be re-
quired to make full use of the new
sorghum. Iike the wheat and rice
varieties that created the Green Revolu-
tion, it requires fertilizer and pest pro-
tection to achieve its full yield potential.
Futhermore, because the hybrid seed
will not breed true, farmers will have to
buy new seed every year.
A promising new sorghum for the
Sahel countries also was tested in 1984.
Bred from all-African parent lines under
the sponsorship of ICRISAT, African
research institutions, and AID, it gives
consistent yields of 1.5-1.7 metric tons
per hectare in the 700 millimeter rainfall

zone through the southern parts of Mali,
Burkina, Niger, and Chad. Although its
yield potential is lower than that of the
Sudan variety, it will thrive under more
adverse conditions and should far out-
produce the area's traditional cereals.
Potatoes. Potatoes-which yield
more human nutrients per hectare than
any other crop for human consump-
tion-are well suited to much of the
Ethiopian highlands. The International
Potato Center, headquartered in Peru,
has tested improved potato varieties in
Ethiopia, with yields as high as 50
metric tons per hectare. Potatoes tradi-
tionally have not been grown or con-
sumed in Ethiopia, however, and a ma-

jor national effort will be needed to pro-
mote potato consumption and to develop
the necessary production, storage, and
marketing network to make potatoes an
important food source.
Forage Crops. Scarcity of dry
season feed is the major constraint on
Ethiopia's livestock production. The In-
ternational Livestock Centre for Africa,
located in Ethiopia, has discovered that
forage crops respond dramatically to
added phosphorus. To increase dairy
production in highland areas, the Centre
has developed a program that employs
forage legumes fertilized with phos-
phorus, cross-bred dairy cattle, conser-
vation of water in surface ponds, and

EQUAvdXT5/S \,-,, -,(1

.. "" ...... -SUDAN .

Food Shortage Countries,
Deserts and Arid Areas RWANDA
E.IH ,, ,"' .
Selected food shortage \ C s
D r nWI True desert
t ^ edertANGOLA
Desert margin; desertification ANGOLA
F in heavily grazed areas ZAMBIA
L yj 1Semi-arid zone; extensive "
Sdesertification due to over
stocking cr cultivation ., UMOZAMBIQUE

0 500 1,000 Kilometers W ,

Source: Climate and Desertification: A Revised
Analysis, World Meteorological Organization,
January 1983. ,

6017 3-85 STAT""'E(INR/GE)
56017 3-85 STATE(INR/GE)

better land cultivation methods. The
resulting additional milk could be proc-
essed into boiled curd cheese for the
marketplace. This low-cost technology
could be applied widely in Ethiopia, but
the government has made no effort to
extend its use.
Corn. In Nigeria, where yields of
white corn average less than 1 metric
ton per hectare, a new variety has
averaged more than 9 metric tons, ever,
in the midst of the recent drought and a
severe outbreak of maize streak virus. It
yielded well in both savannah and forest
locations, indicating wide adaptability.
Cassava. Africa plants more than 7
million hectares in cassava, a fleshy, edi-
ble rootstock that provides about half
the caloric intake for some 200 million
people. Yields average about 6 metric
tons per hectare, compared to a genetic
potential of 15-20 metric tons. The In-
ternational Institute for Tropical Agri-
culture in Nigeria has bred new varieties
of cassava resistant to both the endemic
cassava mosaic disease and a fast-
spreading bacterial blight. These im-
proved varieties outyield local strains by
200%-1,800%. To counter the spread of
cassava mealybug and green spidermite
in western and central Africa, scientists
at the institute are using imported insect
predators and breeding improved cassava
lines to resist the pests.
Peanuts. New peanut varieties
have achieved extraordinary yields at
ICRISAT in India. Three varieties pro-
duced more than 7,000 kilograms per
hectare, compared to average yields in
Africa of about 800 kilograms. They are
being introduced in peanut breeding pro-
grams in Mozambique, Zambia, and Zim-
Leguminous Trees. Leucaena
leucocephala, a leguminous tree native
to Central America, provides its own
nitrogen fertilizer and has a deep tap-
root that resists drought. It may offer
some important benefits to Africa-as a
fast growing firewood species, forage
for livestock, and a means of fertiliza-
tion and of preventing soil erosion.
Research by the International Institute
for Tropical Agriculture and the Inter-
national Council for Research in Agro-
forestry already has proved that inter-
planting crops with rows of leguminous
trees can stabilize soils, increase food
and firewood yields, and shorten the

Use of the Leucaena Tree
in Asia
Improved varieties of the leucaena
tree contribute strongly to in-
creased global production of food
and forest products. Planting of
these trees has reclaimed hun-
dreds of thousands of hectares
from useless sawgrass in
Southeast Asia, where they yield
up to five times more firewood per
hectare than pine trees. The leaves
of the leucaena are a rich livestock
food, and in such regions as India's
Deccan Plateau, the tree serves as
a dry-season fodder that makes
dairying possible there for the first

fallow periods in Africa. Leucaena
species adapted especially for Africa are
being developed and could boost the
trees' wood and forage yields
Improved varieties of mesquite, long
considered a nuisance by U.S. cattle
ranchers, also could contribute to
African food production and drought
resistance. Mesquite, too, is leguminous,
and its pods contain 13% protein and
30'% sucrose. Long taproots can reach
water as deep as 20 meters. In shrub
form the improved varieties can yield
4,000-10,000 kilograms of biomass per
hectare or 3,000-4,000 kilograms per
hectare of nutrient-rich pods.
A U.S. tropical soil specialist in
Texas has developed a mulch-tillage
technique that greatly speeds reforesta-
tion and, in fact, doubles the rate of
revegetation on degraded arid lands in
Africa. The tillage disturbs the barren
soil surface, while mulching with
branches or brush traps windblown sand
and seeds and attracts termites, whose
burrowing increases water retention. A
tillage tool called the Texas Sandfighter
is being adapted to animal power to
keep sand from covering tree seedlings.

Fertilizer and Pesticide
Experiments in East Africa by the Food
and Agriculture Organization have
shown that fertilization increases crop
yields by 50% and that application
directly under the planted seeds adds
another 10%-30%. Such placement is
critical where rainfall is sparse because
otherwise the fertilizer cannot reach
plant roots.

U.S. scientists have discovered a
one-celled protozoan parasite that could
greatly reduce the grasshopper hordes
that are infesting West Africa. Research
in Nigeria shows that protozoans can be
used to infect and kill the grasshoppers.
However, Africa has no facility to raise
the. protozoans and no readily available
Electrostatic handsprayers could
make pesticides as effective for Africa's
small traditional farms as for mecha-
nized farms in developed countries. With
the new sprayer, the farmer carries only
a small container of low-volume, pre-
measured spray (about 12.5 kilograms
per hectare) instead of 1,500 kilograms
(with many refills) required for conven-
tional backpack sprayers. The new
sprayers are easy to carry, use, and
maintain. They also are much safer,
both for the farmer and the environ-
ment, and more cost effective because
more of the electrically charged droplets
of low-volume pesticide adhere to plant
leaves rather than disperse in the air or
fall to the ground.
Using the new handsprayer should
help to increase crop yields significantly.
Use of the sprayers in Nigeria already
has raised yields of new cowpea va-
rieties from 200 kilograms per hectare
to 1,500 kilograms, and the farmer's
profits by about 600% per hectare; in
Zambia, farmers averaged 1,210 kilo-
grams of cotton per hectare, compared
to 770 kilograms for their neighbors
using conventional backpack sprayers.

The Need for Policy Reform

Over time, agricultural research can
dramatically affect food production and
ease political dilemmas faced by many
African governments. New technology
can lower the per unit cost of producing
farm products and thus provide an in-
centive for farmers to increase produc-
tion without raising consumer prices.
Lowered costs help to eliminate the
need for governments to choose between
the risks of famine in the long term and
of consumer riots over food price in-
creases in the short term.
Although the Third World's total na-
tional spending for agricultural research


20 "'
0 L .. ....
The number under each country name is the
total grain requirement for FY85; in thousands of metric tons.

tripled in real terms during the 1970s
and now exceeds that in either Western
Europe or North America, Africa has
lagged far behind. African governments
must provide more effective support for
agricultural research.
They also will have to provide their
farmers with access to the new
technologies and other inputs that can
increase productivity. Yet most African
states have discouraged productivity im-
provements by maintaining government-
established food prices and overvalued
currency exchange rates that artificially
lower the price of food imports. As a
result, small farmers have little incen-
tive to produce marketable surpluses. In-
efficient government agencies have in-
hibited the access of small farmers to
financial resources as well as to im-
proved plant varieties, chemicals, and
other farm technology. Moreover, the
marketing or physical infrastructure re-
quired to distribute farm products has
not been developed.
Most African countries now serious-
ly affected by food shortages have
followed poor agricultural policies. For
example, although Ethiopia suffers from
a major famine, its agricultural
resources are substantial, including
sizable tracts of undeveloped cropland
and significant irrigation potential in
some of its river valleys. It possessed a
fledgling agricultural research establish-
ment when the Marxist regime of
Haile-Mariam Mengistu came to power
10 years ago. Researchers had
developed several improved plant
varieties that, when combined with
modest amounts of fertilizer, doubled
crop yields on small highland farms.
Under Mengistu the research estab-
lishment lost key staff and momentum.
The government channeled most of its
agricultural investment into large state
farms that have produced only about 6%
of the nation's farm output. Ethiopia's
food situation began a precipitous
decline in 1984 when rains failed for the
mid-year crop, which normally produces
5%-15% of the nation's grain. Relatively
dry weather during the primary rainy
season, coupled with pest infestations,
led to a very poor yield from the main
harvest in late 1984 and worsened the
already severe famine.
Tanzania also possesses good unde-
veloped cropland but has had no real
growth in agricultural output for the
past decade. Per capital food production
has declined sharply, and major reduc-
tions in the volume and quality of its

farm exports have caused a foreign ex-
change crisis.
The Sahel, one of the world's least
favored agricultural areas, could possibly
double its cereal production if the coun-
tries affected-Mali, Burkina, Niger,
and Chad-offered fair prices to
farmers and managed their existing ir-
rigation projects more effectively. If the
Sahel countries could impose seasonal
grazing rotation on their uncontrolled
rangeland "commons," more livestock
could be supported with far less en-
vironmental damage.
In contrast, Kenya has had one of
the most effective agricultural programs

CGIAR Research Institutions
The most successful agricultural
research institutions working in
Africa are those affiliated with the
Consultative Group on Interna-
tional Agricultural Research,
which launched the Green Revolu-
tion. These institutions have im-
portant African research projects
underway in sorghum, millet, corn,.
peanuts, cassava, rice, wheat,
potatoes, chickpeas, beans, and
livestock forage crops. The U.S.
Government consistently has pro-
vided about one-fourth of the sup-
port for the CGIAR network of in-

in Africa. After gaining independence in
1963, some 2,000 large European land-
holdings were sold to about 50,000
Kenyan smallholder families. The new
government continued existing agricul-
tural research, operated an extension
program focused on smallholders, and
tried to maintain agricultural price in-
centives. Since 1970, farm productivity
has increased some 35%. Although
Kenya's weather has been bad, relatively
high farm productivity has saved its
population from famine. The country
entered the drought with 600,000 metric
tons of grain stocks, and farm exports
had generated sufficient foreign ex-
change with most of the food needed to
maintain the population. Once the
drought ends, Kenya should be self-
sufficient in food, but serious
agricultural problems remain. In par-
ticular, Kenya needs to revitalize its
agricultural research program and to
reform its inefficient national marketing
African leaders increasingly
recognize the need to reform govern-
ment policies. In the past several years,
attitudes have shifted dramatically on
such issues as exchange rates, measures
to rehabilitate infrastructure, the need
to reduce government regulation and
bureaucracy, and pricing and marketing
reforms. In Zambia, for example, con-
siderable increases in agricultural prices
have stimulated production. In
Madagascar, production has been
boosted by a liberalization of the rice
marketing system and by price in-
creases. Similar developments have oc-
curred in Somalia, Sudan, Zimbabwe,
Malawi, Ghana, Mali, Senegal, and
Rwanda. The Government of Mozam-
bique is emphasizing farm price incen-
tives and permitting private traders to
transport more tools and consumer
goods into rural areas in exchange for
crop surpluses.
Donor countries and international in-
stitutions are beginning to realize that
their practices also have contributed to
Africa's inefficient use of resources.
Donors have insisted on imposing on
recipients their own requirements which,
however well intentioned, have caused
administrative problems and strained

Ethiopian refugees in Somalia.
(UNCHR photo)

the absorptive capacity of African na-
tions-for example, 50 donors have con-
tributed to 188 projects in Malawi and
61 donors to 321 projects in Lesotho.

U.S. Assistance

In response to the human tragedy in
Africa, the United States is providing
unprecedented levels of assistance. We
are attempting to alleviate the im-
mediate needs of millions of starving
people as well as to promote long-term
solutions to Africa's food production
problems. We are providing assistance
through international organizations and
bilateral programs and helping private
voluntary groups in their efforts to
deliver food and other necessities of life.
We are now furnishing more than half
of all emergency food reaching the
famine victims. The United States has
not allowed political differences with any
government to weaken its determination

to have assistance reach those in need.
We are the largest donor to Ethiopia, a
country whose government has been
openly hostile to us for several years.
On July 10, 1984, President Reagan
announced a major initiative to respond
more quickly and effectively to the food
needs of the people of Africa and others
suffering from hunger and malnutrition.
This five-point program includes:
Prepositioning grain in selected
Third World areas;
Creating a special $50 million
presidential fund to allow a more flexible
U.S. response to food emergencies;
Financing or paying ocean and in-
land transportation costs associated with
U.S. food aid in special emergency
Creating a government task force
to provide better forecasts of food short-
ages and needs; and
Establishing an advisory group of
business leaders to share information on
Third World hunger and food produc-
The President also announced a
comprehensive African Hunger Relief
Initiative on January 3 of this year, in
which he directed the U.S. Government
to provide more than 1.5 million metric
tons of emergency food during fiscal
year 1985-three times the record
amount from the previous year. In fiscal
year 1984, the U.S. Government pro-
vided $200 million of emergency assist-
ance-including more than 500,000
metric tons of emergency food aid as
well as medicine and transport assist-
ance-to more than 25 African coun-
tries. Total food aid to Africa amounted
to more than 1.4 million metric tons in
FY 1984.
During the first quarter of fiscal
1985, the U.S. Government had already
shipped 660,000 metric tons of emergen-
cy food aid. Total emergency and
regular food aid and disaster relief pro-
grams-including resources already
committed to Africa, the channeling of
other AID resources to meet the crisis,
and a supplemental appropriation ap-
proved by Congress-will exceed $1
billion this year. The United States will
supply half of Africa's estimated
emergency food needs this fiscal
year-about 2 million metric tons.

Under all food assistance programs this
year, the United States will ship about 3
million metric tons food to Africa.
Because the roots of the hunger
problem are deep, the solutions will take
time. AID is concentrating on the areas
of African policy reform, agricultural
research, and human resource develop-
ment. Through international organiza-
tions and U.S. bilateral and regional pro-
grams, the United States is supporting
such efforts as agricultural development
projects, land reclamation, and other
programs to develop agricultural land
and to train farmers in soil conservation
To assist governments wanting to
undertake desirable reforms, the Ad-
ministration has developed several pro-
grams. The African economic policy
reform program, an initiative funded
with $75 million in economic support
funds, has two main objectives:
To provide additional support for
those African countries that are in the
process of implementing policy changes
or have indicated a willingness and abili-
ty to establish a growth-oriented policy
framework which will provide incentives
to production sectors of the economy,
such as farmers; and
To strengthen the international
assistance framework for Africa by im-
proved multilateral and bilateral donor
coordination at the country level.
The United States is working to
identify African countries for this ini-
tiative, as well as international financial
institutions or other donors that may
wish to provide cofinancing for policy
reform programs.
The President's "Food for Progress"
initiative is designed specifically to use
food aid in support of African countries
that have committed themselves to


Relief workers distributing emergency food. (Amencan Red Cross pnoto)

reform of the agricultural sector. It will
stress market approaches in agricultural
pricing, marketing, and input supply and
distribution. The necessary legislative
framework and funding sources for this
program are being developed.
Although the United States has an
influential role in mobilizing an effective
response to the problem of drought and
famine, the task is not solely a U.S.
responsibility and, in fact, is far too
great for the United States to attempt
alone. The crisis in Africa touches upon
the welfare of the entire world and re-
quires a sustained and coordinated inter-
national effort to relieve the suffering.
In the long run, however, only higher
food production in Africa will put an end

to hunger. Primary responsibility must
rest with the African nations them-
selves, whose actions and policies will
largely determine how much progress
toward self-reliance in food is possible. U

Published by the United States Department
of State Bureau of Public Affairs
Office of Public Communication Editorial
Division Washington, D.C. April 1985
Editors: Norman Howard and Colleen
Sussman This material is in the public
domain and may be reproduced without per-
mission; citation of this source is appreciated.

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