Calestous Juma


It is often stated that sub-Saharan Africa continues to suffer from food insecurity because it was bypassed by the “Green Revolution”. It is therefore concluded from such statements that an African Green Revolution is needed to help enhance Africa’s food security. While some elements of the Green Revolution are essential for addressing Africa’s agricultural challenges, food security is not a function of agricultural production alone. “Food security” is a term that covers critical attributes of food such as sufficiency, reliability, quality, safety, timeliness and other aspects of food necessary for healthy and thriving populations. It is therefore intricately linked to economic health. This paper outlines the critical linkages between food security, agricultural development and economic growth and explains why Africa has lagged behind other countries agriculture. It argues that improving Africa’s agricultural performance will require deliberate policy efforts to bring higher technical education, especially in universities, to the service of agriculture and the economy.

The current global economic crisis and the rising food prices are forcing the international community to review their outlook for human welfare and prosperity. Much of the current concern on how to foster development and prosperity in developing countries reflects the consequences of recent neglect of sustainable agriculture and infrastructure as drivers of development. Sustainable agriculture has through the ages served as the driving force behind national development. In fact, it has been a historical practice to use returns from investment in sustainable agriculture to stimulate industrial development. Restoring it to its right place in the development process will require world leaders to take a number of bold steps.

Science and innovation have always been the key forces behind agricultural growth in particular and economic transformation in general. More specifically, the ability to add value to agricultural produce via the application of scientific knowledge to entrepreneurial activities stands out as one of the most important lessons of economic history. Reshaping sustainable agriculture as a dynamic, innovative and rewarding sector in developing countries will require world leaders to launch new initiatives that include the following strategic elements:

Bold leadership driven by heads of state in developing countries, supported by those of developed and emerging economies, is needed to recognise the real value of sustainable agriculture in the economy of developing countries. High level leadership is essential for establishing national visions for sustainable agriculture and rural development, championing of specific missions for lifting productivity and nutritional levels with quantifiable targets, and the engagement of cross-sectoral ministries in what is a multi sector process.

Sustainable agriculture needs to be recognised as a knowledge-intensive productive sector that is mainly carried out in the informal private economy. The agricultural innovation system has to link the public and private sectors, create close interactions between government, academia, business and civil society. Reforms will need to be introduced in knowledge-based institutions to integrate research, university teaching, farmers’ extension and professional training, and bringing them into direct involvement with the production and commercialization of products.

Policies have to urgently address affordable access to communication services for people to use in their everyday lives, as well as broadband Internet connectivity for centers of learning such as Universities and technical colleges. This is vital to access knowledge and which also triggers local innovations, boosting rural development beyond sustainable agriculture. It is an investment with high returns. Improving rural productivity also requires significant investments in basic infrastructure including facilities such as transportation, rural energy, and irrigation. There will be little progress without such foundational investments. Creating entrepreneurship and facilitating private sector development has to be highest on the agenda to promote the autonomy and support needed to translate opportunity into prosperity. This has to be seen as an investment in itself, with carefully tailored incentives and risk-sharing approaches supported by government.


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