24 August 2012. Publication: Cultivating the Future: Exploring the Potential and Impact of a Green Revolution in Africa by Jonathan D Moyer and Eric Firnhaber
Despite possessing large tracts of rich, uncultivated land, Africa is a net importer of food and suffers from high levels of undernutrition. Some scholars have argued that a ‘Green Revolution’, defined by increasing crop yields and land under cultivation, could bring about a more sustainable future for the continent. However, simply increasing yields and land under cultivation could lead to a world where buying steak in Europe is cheap while millions of Africans continue to go hungry or even starve.
In this policy brief the authors explore the scope and impacts of policy choices that would increase yields and land under cultivation in Africa, and facilitate the regional consumption of food by those in need. Using the International Futures (IFs) software to model alternative scenarios, they find that a massive increase in agricultural production is possible across the continent. With aggressive but reasonable policy interventions, Africa could become a net exporter of food in the next 10 years.
However, a revolution in agricultural production, without developmental policy interventions, would lead to large quantities of food leaving the continent, resulting in increased consumption in rich countries while millions of Africans cannot access the calories they need. Promoting human development, therefore, requires coupling a green revolution with programmes to increase low-income consumption and access to food. In addition, production increases cannot be fully absorbed without improvements in water and sanitation as diarrheal diseases significantly diminish health improvements stemming from increases in caloric consumption. Many other uncertainties that cannot be dealt with here also remain, such as the impact of a green revolution on small-scale farmers.