Friday, January 21, 2011

Investing in African Agriculture

Senegal now produces 50% of its rice consumption, according to the government. This is up significantly from earlier and claimed to be the result of the president's agricultural investment program. Producers associations apparently claim production is not up that

Tanzania is hoping to triple rice production in three years. They are partnering with AfricaRice, targeting larger farms, and pushing genetically modified Nerica (NEw RICe for Africa) varieties. If successful, this would move Tanzania from being a rice importer to a rice exporter. The article praises Nerica:
Guinean farmers have managed to increase their yields by 50 per cent without the use of fertilisers and by more than 200 percent with fertilisers. Cultivating Nerica varieties also has shown a positive effect on schooling rate of children. This effect is partly the result of Nerica’s shorter growth cycle and higher weed competitiveness, alleviating the labour burden put on children, and partly as a result of the higher yields and quality, generating higher revenues.
A Norwwegian company is also investing in Tanzanian fertilizer capacity, according to a company press release. The Mozambique government is investing in livestock, also according to company press releases.

Researchers speaking at the December climate change conference in Mexico argued that a "culture of maize" was holding back African farmers' ability to cope with climate change.
Blessing Chinsinga, science and research lecturer with Chancellor College University of Malawi: “While politicians equate the availability of maize to food security, a family without maize in the farming communities is associated with vulnerability. If you have millet or sorghum, many will still think you are desperate because you do not have maize.” ...

Mclay Kanyangarara, climate change advisor for the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa:  “Maize is an introduced crop and the small grains have always been our traditional indigenous crops, which are better suited to our climate. Maize is also more capital intensive, requiring a lot of fertilizer and pesticides and we need to realise that we cannot force it to grow."
The mechanization of tea leaf picking in Kenya is not met with universal approval. Anyone surprised?

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