Agriculture is a significant economic activity in economies around the world. It plays vital roles in economic development in Africa. In sub-Saharan African (SSA), agriculture provides employment for over 60% of the population [see]. It contributes between 30% and 35% toGross Domestic Product (GDP) in West Africa [see]. Compared to GDP in non-agricultural sector, agricultural GDP growth in SSA is two to four times more effective in raising income and reducing poverty [see]. However, the potentials of the sector to contribute to development are largely untapped and poverty is endemic especially in rural areas in Africa, Nigeria inclusive. Successive governments in African countries have implemented various agricultural development programmes. The success stories of these policies are mixed; while some of these have recorded significant positive land marks, others had no significant impact. Among others, notable examples of such policies are the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), input subsidy programmes in input in Ghana, Zambia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, Mali, and Senegal. With the release of 160 the Drought-Tolerant Maize Varieties (DTMVs), farmers have been made more resilient to impacts of climate change in Africa. Between 2007 and 2013, around 160 drought-tolerant maize varieties were released and scaled up for uptake. However, farming is still predominantly subsistence; smallholders cultivate an estimated 80% of farmland is cultivated in SSA. On the average, maize yield, for instance, is about 1.8 tonnes/ha in SSA compared to the global average of about 5 tonnes/ha.
In a sharp contrast to what obtains in Asia where over 60 percent of lands are worked with tractors, SSA records only about 5 percent mechanized farming while only 6%, of the continent’s water resources are being harnessed [see]. This informs the heavy dependence on rain-fed agriculture on the continent. Despite that about 60 percent of the world’s available arable land is in Africa, many African countries record low agricultural productivity and food insecurity. For instance, Nigeria ranks highly as the largest importer of staple products in West Africa. Although the continent is home to about 200 million youths who can be gainfully employed to boost agricultural productivity [see], yet unemployment is rife. The continent’s expenses on food importation rose from US$ 6 billion to US$ 45 billion between 2001 and 2014. Women produce a large share of food in Africa, yet they have limited access to credit, land, and other productive inputs like fertilizers, pesticides, and machines. Compared to 164 per cent in Brazil, 81 per cent in Uruguay, and 43 per cent in Malaysia, Africa has recorded less than 40 per cent increase in cereals yield during the last decade[see].
Meanwhile Africa’s population continues to grow at a very rapid rate with increasing demand for food, whilst there is rapid urbanization limiting availability of land for agricultural purposes. Hence, the needs to grow Africa’s agricultural productivity demands, among other things, that every concern stake holder should be; aware of the role of productivity; embrace the culture of productive farming and drive productive farming.
Challenges of African agriculture.
Among other things, challenges of African agriculture includes:
Insufficient funding: Although investment in agriculture is important for economic growth and job creation among Africa’s farmers, the sector has performed poorly partly due to low investment. Limited access to fund limits investment in agriculture among African farmers and seriously constrain their productivity. Farmers face untold hardship obtaining loan from the commercial banks. Contrary to the MAPUTO declaration, many governments of African countries still allocate less than 10% of their budgetary allocations to agriculture. Limited access to fund hampers Research and Development (R&D) and technology adoption.
Limited market access: sustainable agricultural production in Africa is hinged upon access to both inputs and products market. Poor access to credit, and other input has in no small measure hindered productive farming in Africa. Most rural settlements in Africa are several kilometers away from locations where farm inputs could be purchased [see].
Poor infrastructure: infrastructural challenges majorly in form of poor rural electrification, poor road network, and potable water make rural livelihood a precarious one. Women and children trek long distances before getting unclean water which expose them to a series of water-borne diseases. Poor infrastructure also affects agro-processing, leading to post harvest losses [see].
Political instability and poor policy formulation: agriculture in Africa is known to have suffered seriously due to instabilities policies and poor policy formulations. On several occasions, agricultural policies have been made based on selfish interest of political leaders. Since these policies were not well-though-out and/or poorly implemented, they could not achieve significant mile stone in improving the lots of farmers. On the other way however, lack data and information relevant for policy making were the bane of agricultural policy making in Africa [see].
Weak extension services: As structural mechanisms for sharing and disseminating information, extension services provide the linkage between research institute and farmers. Poor services or complete absence of extension services (in most cases) makes it difficult for farmers in remote rural locations of Africa to keep abreast of the latest in the world of agriculture [see].
Opportunities for growth
Although population is rapidly on the upward trend, the concomitant rising demand for food opens major opportunities for employment creation and transformation of African economies. African agriculture can promote more inclusive and sustainable economic growth profitable if productivity is enhanced. This feat can be achieved by paying attention to the following:
Increasing agricultural funding based on CAADP: Since availability of fund is pivotal in agricultural investment, increased funding will definitely promote agricultural productivity and its welfare effects on farming households in Africa. While the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programmes (CAADP) has opened opportunities for increased public agricultural funding in Africa, governments of African nations should, commitment to this 10% budgetary allocation agreement is very crucial to, at least 6% annual growth in African agriculture’s productivity [see].
Public-private partnerships: As part of the strategies to unleashing the full potential of agriculture in Africa, Public-private Partnership (PPP) must be encouraged. PPP makes it possible complement African governments’ efforts and limited resources. This will boost agricultural finance and by extension productivity [see].
Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs): With encouragement of investment from oversees, Africa’s share in global agricultural output and exports can receive a boost. Governments of African nations must create the necessary enabling environment to attract investors from outside their countries in order to raise agricultural productivity [see].
Information and Communication Technology (ICT): Access to information and knowledge it provides can boost economic competitiveness. Application of ICT to the agricultural industry offers the best opportunity for economic growth and poverty alleviation on the continent. ICT’s role in addressing challenges of agriculture is increasing due to wide availability of personal ICT devices – such as mobile phones or tablet PCs [see].
Promoting gender inclusion: Since women play remarkable roles along agricultural value-chain in Africa, the existing customary beliefs which limit women’s access to agricultural input and output markets must be eliminated. Women should be allowed unfetter access to productive farm inputs to boost their productivity[see].
To achieve food sufficiency, Africa must seek to empower smallholder farmers in whilst working towards agricultural commercialization by removing constraints to agricultural investment and innovations.