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Africa: Africa Agriculture Profile


Western Africa,Mauritania,Sénégal river valley,Koundel (Kaedi area)


The 53 African nations have been grouped into seven regions based on geographical and climatic homogeneity, which has a direct influence on irrigation. These regions and the nations they include are:



Agriculture is a vital economic activity, providing employment and livelihoods for numerous and serving as the basis for several industries. About 203 million people, or 56.6 % of the total labor force, were occupied in agricultural labor in 2002. In the majority African nations, agriculture supports the survival and well-being of up to 70 % of the inhabitants. Thus, for a lot of, their livelihoods are in a straight line affected by environmental changes, both sudden and gradual, which impact on agricultural productivity.

Livestock and environmental goods offer some security from such shocks. About 71 % of the rural poor in Africa own livestock, contributing radically to household and community resilience to disasters, mainly in arid and semi-arid zones. Additional than 200 million citizens rely on their livestock for gain (sales of milk, meat, skins) and draught power. In general, livestock contributes about 30 % of the gross price of agricultural production in Africa. According to the International Livestock Research Centre (ILRI), opportunities exist to commercialize livestock production to target regional deficits in livestock products where they can be produced competitively.

The irony is that, despite the majority of the total labor force working in agriculture, the region is still unable to feed its growing people. For example, between 20 and 75 % of the people in 29 nations in Central, Western, Eastern and Southern Africa were reported in 2004 to be undernourished. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where 75 % of the total people of 51 million people were reported to be undernourished, 50 % of infant mortality is related to malnutrition. Poor nutrition impacts on health, education and the opportunity to participate fully in community and public affairs. Most often women and children carry a disproportionate burden from food insecurity.

Africa spends between US$15 and 20,000 million on food imports annually, in addition to the US$2,000 million it receives in food aid annually. These are vast amounts of money that the region can ill afford to externalize, and which could be used to revitalize agriculture, particularly the low-input agriculture whose yields are limited, and thus increase productivity. About 70 % of Africa’s poor, and at least two-thirds of its people, live in rural areas depending mainly on agriculture and natural resources for their livelihoods.

Agriculture provides the opportunities to address extreme poverty in Africa, where the proportion of people living below the poverty line, of less than US$1 a day, increased from 47.6 % in 1985 to 59 % in 2000. As a result, additional and additional people in Africa have limited access to food and other basic amenities such as potable water, minimum health care and education, entirely limiting the opportunities available to them. Poverty and nutritional status are closely linked. About 26 % of the people in Africa – additional than 200 million people, particularly women and children – are undernourished; this is a reflection of poverty. It deepens other aspects of poverty such as incapacity to work and resistance to disease. It as well affects children’s mental development and educational achievements.

Agriculture is not limited to subsistence food crops and livestock production but includes crops grown for sale, such as tobacco, cotton and flowers. Most agricultural households rely to some extent on sale of agricultural products. Thus, access to markets, finance and supporting infrastructure are crucial.

Horticulture, which includes vegetables, fruits and cut flowers, has become a major activity. It has grown to be the single major category in world agricultural trade, accounting for over 20 % of such trade in recent years. While in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), horticultural exports presently exceed US$2,000 million, this is only 4 % of the world total. Significant opportunities for expansion, therefore, exist in Africa to boost employment inclunding foreign currency earnings. The challenges would be to adequately transaction with environmental problems, which include pollution from chemicals.

An opportunity which is from presently on to be fully exploited is irrigated agriculture. Only six % of the total cultivated land is under irrigation in Africa, compared to 33 % in Asia. In a region where droughts are prevalent, often destroying crops and exacerbating food insecurity, irrigation could be a key factor in enhancing food security. Irrigation increases yields of most crops by between 100 and 400 %, and it has been projected that in the next three decades, 70 % of gains in cereal production globally would be from irrigated land. According to the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), little evolution towards sustainable development can be completed until Africa reaches a minimum level of developing and managing water resources for fasten food and agricultural production.

In order to maximize the potential of the agricultural sector, institutional and governance reforms which increase opportunities for rural people, such as better access to finance, and support the development of small and microenterprises is essential. Agricultural opportunities are closely linked to world trade policies and practices.

Boosting agricultural production

Various policy responses have been proposed to reverse the slide in agriculture and help boost production and enhance food security. One of the major responses is the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), which was endorsed by African governments in late 2002 in the context of the New Partnership for Africa’s Improvment(NEPAD). The CAADP has three immediate \"pillars\" and one long-term pillar which together can help tackle Africa’s agricultural crisis.

The mutually reinforcing pillars on which to base the immediate development of agriculture, food security and trade balance are:

  • • Extending the area under sustainable land management and reliable water control systems. Building up soil fertility and the moisture-holding capacity of agricultural soils, and rapidly increasing the area under irrigation, particularly small-scale irrigation, will not only provide farmers with opportunities to raise output on a sustainable basis, but will as well contribute to the reliability of food supplies.
  • • Improving rural infrastructure and trade-related capacities for market access. Roads, storage, markets, packaging and handling systems, and input supply networks should be improved to raise the competitiveness of local production vis-à-vis imports and export markets.
  • • Increasing food supply and reducing hunger. Several factors inclunding the limited use of irrigation and other inputs undercut crop and livestock yields. There is a need to improve access to technology by small farmers. These can play a major role in increasing food availability close to where it is most needed, raising rural incomes, and expanding employment opportunities and contributing to increase in exports. Food storage and its protection from mildew and pests are of critical importance. It is as well significant to respond to the growing frequency and severity of disasters and emergencies which impact on food security. In addition, conflict and war as well disrupt food production. As a result, additional aid is being diverted to emergency relief than to necessary long-term development.

Agricultural research, technology dissemination and adoption is the long-term pillar to achieve accelerated gains in productivity and requires:

  • 1. enhanced rate of adoption of the majority promising available technologies by linking, additional efficiently, research and extension systems to producers;
  • 2. technology delivery systems that quickly bring innovations to farmers and agribusinesses through appropriate use of new data and communication technologies;
  • 3. renewing the ability of agricultural research systems to efficiently and entirely generate and adapt to Africa’s new knowledge and technologies, inclunding biotechnology; and
  • 4. mechanisms that reduce the costs and risks of adopting new technologies.

It was estimated that a budget of US$251,000 million for the period 2002-2015 was needed to successfully implement these four pillars. If Africa were to invest in agriculture the total of about US$22,000 million it spends annually on food imports and food aid, it would take the region less than a decade to implement the four proposed agricultural pillars highlighted in the CAADP. The CAADP budget is slightly less than Africa’s total deficit of over US$292,000 million for the period 2000-2002. Africa’s deficit burden has been described as a major obstacle to the region’s economic increase and poverty reduction, threatening efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), particularly that of halving poverty by 2015.

Eastern Africa

  • Harvesting of the 2005 major season cereal crops is underway in northern parts of the subregion while it has been completed in southern parts.
  • A generally better 2005 harvest compared to 2004 is expected to improve food availability in most nations of the subregion.
  • The in general food situation, however, remains precarious with high malnutrition rates reported in several nations arising from effects of war, displacement and completed droughts.
  • In Somalia, below average 2005 major “gu” season harvest in the south and an upsurge in civil strife have exacerbated the by presently precarious food situation. Nearly one million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.
  • The food situation in Sudan is as well alarming due to continued conflict and people displacement that have resulted in critical food insecurity, particularly in Darfur and southern Sudan.

Southern Africa

  • · There are delays in planting of major season crops due to inadequate rainfall so far in most nations in the subregion.
  • Food insecurity is worsening during this lean period and nearly 12 million people, mainly in Zimbabwe and Malawi, are in need of emergency food assistance.
  • Shortages of key farm inputs such as seed, fertilizer and draft power are reported in Zimbabwe. High inflation coupled with fuel and transport problems are exacerbating food insecurity.
  • In Malawi, markets continue experiencing escalating prices of maize, the major staple food. So far, commercial imports and food aid deliveries have been meagre in spite of the significant amounts pledged by international donors.
  • South Africa’s record maize harvest of 12.4 million tonnes is estimated to result in a potential exportable surplus of about 4.66 million tonnes, additional than enough to cover the subregion’s import requirements.

Western Africa

  • Good harvests are expected in the Sahel, following generally favourable weather conditions throughoutthe growing season.
  • However, the severe food crisis that hit the subregion in 2004/05 had critical gain, livelihoods and nutrition effects and resulted in depletion of household assets inclunding animals, inclunding high levels of indebtedness, notably in Niger and parts of Burkina Faso, Mali and Mauritania.
  • In spite of the improved food supply situation in these nations, assistance is still needed for gain generating and investment reconstitution activities in order to strengthen access to food for vulnerable households.
  • In Côte d’Ivoire, insecurity and the de facto partition of the country continue to disrupt agricultural production and marketing activities.
  • In Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, food assistance continues to be needed for internally displaced people and refugees.

Central Africa

  • Crop prospects and food security outlook are unfavourable in several nations due mainly to civil strife and insecurity.
  • In general crop prospects are favourable in Cameroon, but food insecurity persists in Chari and Logone Division of the Extreme North which experienced a severe food crisis in 2005.
  • The National Early Warning System in Burundi has warned of critical food insecurity beginning December 2005 due to a prolonged dry spell. A similar weather pattern is expected to affect the 2006 A season crops.

The total area of Africa is 30 million km², or 22% of the world’s emerged landmass. The five major nations (Sudan, Algeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, and Chad in decreasing order) represent 34% of this territory, while the smallest five nations (all islands: Cape Verde, Comoros, Mauritius, Sao Tome and Principe, and Seychelles) constitute little additional than 3%. The cultivated area is estimated at 211 million ha, or 27% of the cultivable land on the continent. The Sudano-Sahelian Region is the region with the greatest potential in terms of cultivable land, but only 19 % of this is exploited compared with additional than 40% in the Northern, Gulf of Guinea and Indian Ocean Islands Regions.

The climate in Africa is influenced by the equator, by the two tropics, and by the two large deserts (the Sahara in the Northern Hemisphere, and the Kalahari in the Southern Hemisphere). Very different climates are in juxtaposition, ranging from very dry to wet equatorial by way of additional moderate climate.

Northern Region

The Northern Region, consisting of Algeria, Egypt, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Morocco and Tunisia, covers an area of about 6 million km2, or 19 % of the continent. Algeria covers 40% of the area of this region. Each of the nations in this region has access to the Mediterranean Sea. Out of a total cultivable area of 65 million ha, only 28 million ha are cultivated, or 43% of the potential.

This region is bordered in the north by the Mediterranean Sea and in the south by the Sahara, both of which have a strong influence on the climate (additional moderate in the north and very dry in the south). Annual average precipitation in the region reaches only 96 mm (western Sahara excluded), ranging from 750 mm in the extreme northwest of Morocco to close to 0 mm in the south of Egypt.

In 2004, the Northern Region had 153 million inhabitants, with 48 % of the people living in rural areas. Half of this people lives in Egypt. The average regional density of 26 inhabitants/km2 is equal to the average density of the continent, but the people is concentrated mainly on the Mediterranean Sea coasts and in the Nile Delta and Nile Valley, where density can reach 1 165 inhabitants/km2, while the desert is practically uninhabited. The in general annual people increase of 1.9 % in the period 1994-2004 was relatively low, ranging from 1.2 % in Tunisia to 2.2 % in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, and it has decreased compared with the previous decade (2.5 % between 1984 and 1994).

Sudano-Sahelian Region

This region covers 12 nations: Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Somalia and Sudan. It has a total area of 8.6 million km2, or 28 % of the continent. The Sudan, the major country on the continent, represents 29 % of this territory.

Four of the nations are landlocked: Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger. In 2000, the cultivable area was 208 million ha (50 % of which were in Sudan) and crops were cultivated on about 39 million ha, or almost 19% of the cultivable area.

This region extends to the north of the Sahara and is bordered in the south by the Gulf of Guinea Region, which is additional humid. The climate is generally dry, of Sahelian or Sudano-Sahelian type, and characterized by two seasons. The annual average precipitation is 311 mm, ranging from 25 mm in the north of the Sudan to additional than 1 600 mm in the south of this country. The average evapotranspiration is about 2 000 mm/year, but it can reach 8 000 mm/year in the Gash-Barka Basin in Eritrea.

About 113 million people lived in the region in 2004, which is equal to a density of 13 inhabitants/km2, the lowest on the continent. However, national average densities range from 3 inhabitants/km2 in Mauritania to 129 inhabitants/km2 in the Gambia. About 66 % of this people is rural. However, 84 % of the people of Djibouti is concentrated in urban areas, in particular in the capital. The regional annual people increase of 3.2 % in the period 1994-2004 was the highest on the continent and approximately the same as in the period 1984-1994 (almost 3.3 %/year).

Gulf of Guinea Region

Nine nations form this region: Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Togo. They cover a total area of 2.1 million km2, or 7 % of the continent, with Nigeria accounting for 44 % of this are Of the total cultivable area of 120 million ha, about 55 million ha were cultivated in 2002 (46 % of the potential).

The region is bordered in the north by the Sudano-Sahelian Region and in the south by the Atlantic Ocean. The climate is Sudanese in the north and wet tropical in the south. The annual average precipitation of the region is 1 356 mm, with large variations between nations: from 1 039 mm/year in Benin to 2 526 mm/year in Sierra Leone. Evapotranspiration increases from 1 500 mm/year in the south of Togo to 5 200 mm/year in the north of Nigeria.

The people was 196 million inhabitants in 2004, of whom 65 % lived in Nigeria.THe average density of 93 inhabitants/km2 is the highest on the continent. However, variations both between and within nations can be very significant, ranging from 31 inhabitants/km2 in Liberia to 138 inhabitants/km2 in Nigeria, and from 16 inhabitants/km2 in Beyla in the province of Guinea Forestiere in Guinea to 2 429 inhabitants/km2 in its capital, Conakry. In this region, about 54 % of the people is rural. Annual people increase ranges from barely 1.7 % in Ghana to 2.9 %  in Guinea-Bissau, with a regional average of 2.8 % in the period 1994-2004, compared with 3.4 % between 1984 and 1994.

Central Region

This region comprises eight nations: Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Sao Tome and Principe. Its total area is 5.3 million km2, or 18 % of the continent . The estimated cultivated area in 2002 was about 21 million ha, or 12 % of the 173 million ha of cultivable land .

The Central African Republic is the only landlocked country in the region. The climate varies from tropical dry or wet to equatorial, depending on nations. Average precipitation (1 425 mm/year) reaches both extremes in Sao Tome and Principe, ranging from 900 mm/year in the northeast to 6 000 mm/year in the southwest. On a regional scale, the averages range from 1 010 mm/year in Angola to 3 200 mm/year in Sao Tome and Principe. Evapotranspiration in this region varies from 1 200 mm/year to 2 200 mm/year.

The Central Region has an estimated people of 94.5 million inhabitants (11 % of the African people). Some 56 % of them live in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is as well the major country (44 % of the area of the region). The low average people density of 18 inhabitants/km2 ranges from 5 inhabitants/km2 in Gabon to 172 inhabitants/km² in Sao Tome and Principe. Annual people increase ranges from 1.5 % in the Central African Republic to 3.3 %  in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for a regional average of 2.7 % between 1994 and 2004, significantly lower than in the previous period (3.6 %).

Eastern Region

The Eastern Region comprises six nations: Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, and United Republic of Tanzania. Its total area is about 3 million km2, or 10 % of Africa . Ethiopia and the United Republic of Tanzania constitute 70 % of the territory of this region. BUurundi, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Uganda are landlocked. The cultivated area is 37 % of the total cultivable area of 83 million ha.

The Eastern Region is bordered in the northwest, north and northeast by the Sudano-Sahelian Region, in the east by the Indian Ocean, in the south by the Southern Region, and in the west by the Central Region. Thus, the climate is diversified. It is dry in parts of Ethiopia and Kenya, equatorial in Uganda, tropical in the west of Burundi in the Imbo Plain near Lake Tanganyika, and moderate tropical in the highlands of Rwanda and the United Republic of Tanzania. Distributed over one or two periods, the average annual precipitation is 920 mm, ranging from less than 100 mm in the northeast of Ethiopia to 3 000 mm in some areas of the United Republic of Tanzania.

The people of the region is 185 million inhabitants, or 21 % of the African people . The average people density is 63 inhabitants/km², ranging from 40 inhabitants/km2 in the United Republic of Tanzania to 322 inhabitants/km² in Rwanda. The annual people increase of this region was 2.9 % in the period 1994-2004, but, depending on nations, it has varied between 1.8 and 3 %/year in the last few years.

Southern Region

The Southern Region comprises nine nations: Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The region has a total area of 4.7 million km2, or 16 % of the continent. South Africa, Namibia and Mozambique together represent additional than 60 % of the total sector. The cropped area is about 33 million ha, or 29 % of the total cultivable area of 114 million ha.

The region is bordered in the northwest by the Central Region, in the northeast by the Eastern Region, and in the west, south and east by the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, which meet at the Cape of Good Hope. Mozambique, Namibia, and South Africa have access to the sea, the other nations are landlocked. The major landscapes of the region are: the fringing plains; the Kalahari scrub-desert with a total surface area of about 500 000 km² (covering a wide part of Botswana and extending towards Namibia and South Africa); and Africa’s Great Rift. The climate is dry in the deserts, moderate at higher altitudes (Lesotho), and tropical to subtropical in the rest of the region. Rains fall mainly in the summer (October-April), except near the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, where the climate is Mediterranean and rain falls in winter. The annual average precipitation in the region is 659 mm, ranging from less than 100 mm in the desert to additional than 2 000 mm in the north of Mozambique. The majority humid country is Malawi (with an average precipitation of 1 181 mm/year), and the least humid is Namibia (285 mm/year). Evapotranspiration can exceed 3 700 mm/year in certain zones of Namibia.

The region has a total people of 107 million inhabitants, of whom 57 % live in rural areas . The average people density is rather low (23 inhabitants/km2), ranging from 2.4 inhabitants/km2 in Namibia to 104 inhabitants/km2 in Malawi . People increase is as well limited at no additional than 2 %/year in all the nations. In the last two decades, people increase has declined from 2.8 %/year in the period 1984-1994 to 1.7 %/year in the period 1994-2004. This decline is a consequence of the very high incidence of HIV/AIDS (infection rates ranged from 12.2 % in Mozambique to 38.8 % in Swaziland at the end of 2003 part all people aged 15-49 years), which has as well caused a severe reduction in the average life expectancy in the region, from 48 years in 1970 to 38 years in 2003.

Indian Ocean Islands Region

Madagascar represents additional than 99 % of the 591 760 km2 of this region, which as well includes Comoros, Mauritius and Seychelles. The cultivated area of 3.8 million ha, a very significant proportion of which is in Madagascar, covers 46 % of the cultivable sector(8.3 million ha).

In Madagascar, the climate varies from semi-arid to tropical humid, while it is generally tropical humid in Seychelles and the Comoros, and subtropical to temperate maritime in Mauritius. The mean annual rainfall is 1 510 mm, ranging from 900 mm in the Comoros to 2 040 mm in Mauritius.

The total people of the four nations amounts to 20 million inhabitants, with 90 % in Madagascar . The average people density is rather low (34 inhabitants/km2), but there are wide difference between Madagascar (30 inhabitants/km2) and the other three nations (446 inhabitants/km2 on average). The people increase of the region declined from 3.2 %/year in the period 1984-1994 to 3 %/year in the period 1994-2004. However, there are considerable differences between the nations as Seychelles has the lowest national people increase rate of the whole continent (1 %/year) and the Comoros one of the highest (2.9 %/year).

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