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2016-08_dc

20 D+C  e-Paper  August 2016 at once, and budget constraints make matters espe- cially tough in developing countries. So policymakers should focus on boosting farm productivity? Well, doing so certainly makes sense for a number of reasons. The result is not only more food, but more income as well. Both is needed, and urgently so. Higher rural incomes will help to drive development in other sectors – education, health care et cetera. On the other hand, migration to the urban areas will accelerate unless rural incomes rise, but African agglomerations are overburdened anyway. They plainly do not offer the employment opportunities needed. According to surveys, a very high percentage of Africans would like to live in Europe, and this is more than understandable – since many of them live at the threshold of survival. To alleviate pressures, we need to boost farm productivity in environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive ways. Who can promote that cause? Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Coopera- tion and Development (BMZ) is taking a sensible approach. Its special initiative One World Without Hunger is the right approach. Its focus is on innova- tion centres, with an emphasis on education and extension services in the crucial sector of agriculture. Thomas Piketty, the prominent French economist, has shown that education has always been the main trigger of meaningful progress. The BMZ is investing a lot of money in this matter every year. Germany’s international-development agencies cannot enforce anything in a foreign country, but they can support worthy efforts. It is essential to boost and further develop knowledge at the local level. Unfortunately, agricultural colleges in Africa are often theory- driven, not solution-oriented. All too often, they show little concern for African farming, but basi- cally reiterate text-book knowledge from Europe and North America. Farmers require competent advice that fits their needs, however, and they deserve to get information on how to boost productivity in sustain- able and affordable ways. Could Africa benefit from Asia’s experience? That is easier said than done. It is true that Asian countries have made much greater progress in terms of agriculture development than African ones. One reason was that their staple food is rice. High yielding varieties of this crop were bred, and for instance Southeast Asia had the labour force and water resources to use them. Cultivated the right way, paddy rice does not necessarily require mineral fertilisers or pesticides. The yields are fine without such input. Moreover, paddy rice is self-compatible, so farmers could keep cultivating rice without hav- ing to buy seed. There were some downsides too, of course, but all summed up, international agriculture- breeding programmes proved quite useful. In Africa, rice is becoming more important now, but this con- tinent does not have water resources and a labour force per hectare to equal Southeast Asia. Moreover, researchers neglected Africa’s traditional crops like millet, sorghum and cassava in their breeding pro- grammes. Maize has now become the staple crop in many areas, but it cannot be cultivated as easily and sustainably as paddy rice. Asian countries, moreover, have another advantage which is often underesti- mated: they are densely populated. Overpopulation is often considered a huge problem, even though population density actually facilitates business activ- ity, allowing for marketing effectiveness and scaling up. That is no different in densely populated African Tractor on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro: rural roads must improve. dem

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