If you haven’t been tracking developments in African agriculture lately—and unless you’re an economist or working for a nongovernmental organization or something, why would you?—then you may have missed the big news: For the first time in a half century, farming in Africa, particularly in the sub-Sahara, is booming.
For one, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which is the leading nongovernmental donor to African agriculture reports that 10 sub-Saharan countries are posting annual output increases of 6 percent, more than twice the rate of population growth.
In addition, the infamously food-insecure Malawi and Ethiopia now grow enough to export surpluses to their neighbors. And the most densely populated western part of the continent has sustained such profound gains that Steven Wiggins, a leading expert on agriculture, has declared that “a green revolution is already under way.” Some readers may find that statement unsubstantiated and indeed it’s hard to shake those haunting images of starving Africans from decades past.
Yet the stories emerging these days from the sub-Sahara speak of real change and innovation—and the potential for greater gains in the future. Here are some but few of the examples of what is happening in the continent.
Weevil infestations of cowpeas, a plentiful staple in the hot, dry Sahel region, cause post harvest losses as high as 50 percent. Researchers at Purdue University created an airtight triple-layer sack that stops the bugs cold. Last year, the sacks were distributed to 28 000 villages in 10 African countries.