After decades of decline, per capita food production in sub-Saharan Africa grew for the first time in 2008, says the FAO in a new report. Increased use of technology, higher food prices and better economic and agricultural policies have helped to drive this growth. Agricultural productivity has also been stimulated through the use of new higher yielding and drought tolerant varieties, such as NERICA rice. But while the 3.5 per cent increase in agricultural growth is good news, around 30 per cent of Africans still suffer from chronic hunger and malnutrition.
With abundant natural resources, African agriculture has enormous potential to grow further, but many challenges remain, the report says. Inadequate input markets and extension services, poor infrastructure, insufficient investment in agricultural production value chain development, HIV and AIDS, poor governance and conflict are just some of the obstacles that need to be overcome in order to stabilise and boost growth. In addition, the report calls for a significant increase in current agricultural research investment, particularly in biotechnology and adaptation to climate change.