Africa agriculture and the future of biobased technologies

Agricultural growth was the precursor to the industrial revolutions that range across the Europe and Asia, from England in 18 th  century, to Japan in 19 th  century. The demand for agriculture outcomes triggered efforts towards better understanding of the use of soil, development of technology (e.g. irrigation and machinery use in the fields), development of biology and chemistry (from the need to know how to manipualte seed and to manage crop yields, for higher productivity and productivity).

African Continent did not pass through a similar historical period. Causes are complex, but they are generally related to the landplots fragmentation and later, to the conflict between international market demand and local agricultural specificity.

Even worse, only few African Nations managed to manage the agricultural growth to drive a decrease in poverty – Ethiopia and Rwanda are conclusive examples. According to the World Bank, poverty in Ethiopia dropped by 33% since 2000, with an agricultural GDP growth of near 10% per year being the main driver. Rwanda devoted much effort to staple crops, which have a high nutritional value and a greater potential to replace and supplement imported food.

African Countries face overall problems that impacted agriculture, lack of diversification included as a side effect: large landlocked territory (Uganda), poor education systems, volatile international markets for many of the local products – not to mention political turbulences and disasters.

Subsistence agriculture under these circumstances rises soil health challenges: when farmers plant the same fields without fertilisers, they deplete the soil from nutrients, year after year. Low crop output means low capital for further development and lack of scientific capacity leads to a very difficult adoption of biobased technologies, which are quite common nowdays in European Union.

There is still hope: using international assistance, EU included, Africa started to re-gain its tradional (now “orphan”) agricultural species and to diversify its revenue from agriculture, mainly by setting new capacities, enhancing scientific cooperation and setting value chains (linking entities from Tanzania, Nigeria and Mozambique).

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