INVESTIGATION INTO THE CAUSES OF LOW AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION AND PRODUCTIVITY IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA
The sector of agriculture plays a key part in the economy of developing nations since their economy is mostly based on subsistence farming. The economies depend on agriculture in terms of employment, GDP, and income. Therefore, the growth of these economies relies mostly on the success of the agricultural sector. Majority of the farmers still use the outdated farming methods leading to low and poor productivity. The market for the produce is not guaranteed thus the farmers do not find any motivation to do large-scale farming. The climatic changes have affected the agricultural sector in developed countries leading to low yields in the produce and a loss in the farmer’s resources. Further, the budgetary allocation on agricultural sectors is not adequate to finance the poor farmers in purchasing agricultural inputs like fertilizer.
Some of the sub-Saharan countries still experience civil wars that have a negative impact on agricultural productivity since the citizens cannot farm during the war. Many African farmers spend 60% of their disposable income on food, thus struggle to meet other household requirements (Davidson, 2002). The low agricultural productivity affects the economic welfare the economies that spend about $30-50 billion to import food annually (Williams, 1992). These are costs that can be avoided if the countries understood the causes of low agricultural productivity. Sub -Saharan region countries in Africa mainly depend on domestic crops for consumption thus an improvement in the agricultural sector is essential. The potential of crop yield in sub-Saharan African countries is still wide. In the period between 2008 and 2010, 15 out of the 39 sub-Saharan Africa countries reported a yield of less than one ton per hectare (Stacy et. al, 2012). The following are the possible reasons behind the low food productivity in the region.
One of the major contributors of low agricultural productivity in sub-Saharan Africa is the change in weather conditions. A research done by Davidson (2002) indicates that the sub-Saharan countries are not adequately prepared to handle the outcome of failed rainfall or cases of prolonged dry seasons. They still rely on the traditional seasons that no longer exist due to effects of global warming. This results in low or no productivity in agriculture. For example in 2005, the total yield of the maize crop was only 37% for the whole country. This was due to long dry season coupled with the invasion of pests that consumed the majority of the farmer’s products in the farms. In Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, and Somalia the same case of rainfall shortage affected the region in 2006, affecting more than eleven million people (Mwangi, 2006). The same countries faced another drought in 2011, a clear indication that little was done after the 2006 drought. Appropriate strategies like irrigation that could be used to maintain high farm yield even in the dry season is not effectively implemented (Hagenimana, 2000). Drought resistant crops are not very popular since the cost of buying the seedlings may not be affordable to all farmers. In addition, the inadequate research by the agricultural sectors does not provide the farmers with alternatives farming methods using new technology.
Inadequate research and development.
The agricultural sectors in most developing countries do not get enough resources in terms of funds to invest in extensive research thus the agricultural activities continue to be carried out based on the traditional crops, even with the current changes in climate. The existence of centralized system of agricultural research and development is a major hindrance into the research since the departments do not get challenged from competing private institutions. The farmers, therefore, do not find any need to put effort in large-scale farming because they do not have enough market for their products (Dewbre et. al, 2008). A sound research and development institute is responsible for establishing market for the farmers. This way the farmers will increase their productivity and also they could have the courage to invest in their farms since the output is rewarding. The research on new farming technologies, changes in social, cultural and economic aspects of marketing, production and human livelihood is necessary.
Poor management of natural resources.
Some of the sub-Saharan Africa countries have vast tracts of land that is not put into use. The issues of land degradation and erosion of soil affect most parts of the countries due to failure of managing the land. Resources like water are also poorly managed since there are no clear regulations that ban industries from draining their waste into the river (Dewbre et. al, 2008). The untreated chemicals from these rivers make the water unsuitable to use even for farming purposes. The same water could be used for irrigation thereby continuing with high agricultural yield even in the dry season (Davidson, 2002). Some areas that experience short rainfall have very fertile soils that could yield good produce if water were supplied by digging boreholes in the regions. This again is a failure linked to the research and development efforts. There are no efforts to control soil erosion thus the soil eventually loses its fertility hence affecting agricultural productivity.
Lack of government support
The agricultural sector requires input of funds to acquire resources necessary in attaining good harvest. The governments in these sub-Saharan Africa countries do not allocate enough funds to the agriculture ministry thus little is done to provide farmer with the resources they need to improve agriculture. In a research carried out by Hagenimana (2000), the growth in the agricultural sector in sub-Saharan Africa increased from 2.3% in the 1980s to 3.8%in 2005, reducing rural poverty by 1.8%. An increase in agricultural productivity was attributed to increased land use rather than the increased productivity. For the farmers to realize increased yield in their crops, they not only need to put more land under agriculture, but they must embrace modern farming methods. The farmers are not able to purchase modern farm inputs due to high level of poverty in the countries that is largely caused by poor agricultural productivity.
Further investors in sub-Saharan Africa shy away from investing in the agricultural sector in the fear that the low productivity due to factors like shortage of rain persists. As stated earlier, the research and development institutions require funds to run their programs for the success of the agricultural sector (Davidson, 2002). The governments of sub-Saharan countries do not put emphasis on looking for market for the agricultural products in their regions (Poulton et. al, 2006). The poorly developed rural areas make it difficult for investors to venture into agriculture since it is not easy to access the farms and markets after the harvest. The young population who would otherwise offer better labor in the farms flees to the urban area in search for better employment opportunities. There are also instances where there are land issues in the countries that further discourage the investors who fear buying a disputed land (Adholla et. al, 1991). The land ownership is an issue that affects productivity in agriculture in sub-Saharan countries (Place & Hazell, 1993).
Such land remains unused affecting the productivity of agricultural products since in the event that the land was put in good use it would yield a good harvest. Corruption is a key issue that affects even the agricultural sector in terms of resource allocation. The farm inputs that the government may purchase in support of the agricultural sector do not always reach the targeted groups of needy farmers (Mwangi, 2006). The agricultural officials entrusted with funding agricultural projects do not use the whole amount allocated in the project, but they keep some of it to themselves. This frustrates the government efforts in promoting the agricultural sector.
Agriculture is mainly done in the rural areas where there is poor infrastructure making it expensive for the farmers to get their farm produce to the market and also getting the farm inputs to the farmers in the first place is not easy (Dewbre et. al, 2008). Agriculture is not a popular sector in the sub-Saharan Africa and majority of the youth move to urban areas to look for other jobs apart from agriculture leaving agriculture to be done by majority of middle aged and old citizens. The size of the lands that the subsistence farmers depend on is small due to the high population in the region thus the productivity is small (Mwangi, 2006). In addition, the methods used in farming are not modern since the farmers cannot afford modern technology used in farming in developed nations.
This affects the quality of the products as well as the productivity thus making the countries products incompetent in the international market. With the widespread scarcity of land, the developing nations depend on productivity of the few crops they plant which not guarantee due to the poor farming methods they apply (Williams, 1992). Productivity thus becomes lower than the potential level. The scarcity in water makes it hard for the farmers to harvest enough crops during the dry seasons (Davidson, 2002). High dependency on rainwater for farming is a major challenge in farming. There are no mechanisms that are put in place in these countries to ensure a constant flow of water for irrigation no matter the season (Dewbre et. al, 2008). Techniques like water harvesting are not embraced and thus a lot of rain water goes to waste instead of being harvested and used in the dry season.
In conclusion, there is a need for the sub-Saharan Africa countries to invest in agriculture both in capital and human resources. The low farm productivity is not always as a result of insufficient funds, but also the methods of farming that the farmers use. Putting unused land into agricultural use can only yield a good harvest by using the modern farming methods and farm inputs (Mwangi, 2006). The traditional crops do not do well in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa and thus creating the need for shifting the crops to drought resistant plants. Lack of support by the government plays a major role in the low agricultural productivity in sub-Saharan Africa. This discourages investors since there is poor infrastructure. The products cannot reach the market conveniently further discouraging the farmers from venturing in large-scale farming. The poor research and development in sub-Saharan African countries affects productivity since there is inadequate information regarding the appropriate farming methods, inputs, market, and crops. Poor management of natural resources is also a factor that affects agricultural productivity.
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“agriculture is not a popular sector in the sub-Saharan Africa and majority of the youth move to urban areas to look for other jobs apart from agriculture leaving farming to be done by majority of middle aged and old citizens."The sentence is not a direct quote from any specific reference but I framed it from my understanding after reading different books. Therefore, it cannot be referenced under a specific referee.