Africa – The Next Breadbasket But Is Its Agricultural Management Sustainable?

African fertile farmland has potential not only to feed Africans but many other countries around the world. Indeed, Africa can be the next breadbasket of the world but what are the best sustainable approaches for developing the agriculture in Africa with consideration to the existing threats and needs in Africa. Agriculture in Africa doesn’t yield enough food for its population, Thailand for example currently exports more agricultural products than all sub-Saharan countries combined, yet climate change has many known and unknown threats to Africa’s yields.

Would big corporations grabbing up land on the planet’s hungriest continent be able to solve Africa’s current and future needs? Giant corporations versus small farming are two models with contrasting advantages for a continent coping with famine, poverty, threats of climate change and degradation in water quality from pollution and waste.

So far, most land deals have occurred in Africa, one of the few regions on the planet that still have millions of acres of fallow land and plentiful water available for irrigation. Cheep land and labor makes Africa very attractive for agricultural investments but with negative impacts on poor African small farmers. Chirime’s situation is what small farmers are currently facing in Africa and it is hardly unique. She’s just one character in the biggest story in modern global agriculture reality. The situation as such is an unlikely quest to turn sub-Saharan Africa, historically one of the hungriest places on the planet, into a major new breadbasket for the world. But who will do the farming in Africa’s future? Will it be poor farmers like Chirime working one-acre plots, who make up roughly 70 percent of the Africa’s labor force? Or will it be giant corporations like Wanbao, operating industrial farms like those of American Midwest?

Humanitarian groups that deal with global hunger and peasants’ rights call corporate land deals neocolonialism and agri-imperialism. Yet veterans of agricultural development say the massive infusion of private cash, infrastructure, and technology that such deals may bring to poor rural areas could be a catalyst for desperately needed development—if big projects and small farmers can work together. But, how the land rights of the people can be protected, the global poverty be significantly reduced? Who would implement sustainable policies for the mitigation of climate change? Who would develop large-scale and long-term actions for conservation of water resources and protection against pollution and waste? With the existing threats of increasing soil erosion, and expected degradation in soil fertility, how/when land-water management strategies would be planned, coordinated and implemented to achieve sustainable socio-economic developments in Africa?

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