Can Africa feed itself?
Their findings were published in the journal PNAS of this week.
Agricultural yields per hectare in sub-Saharan Africa are currently low.
Although extensive farming now satisfies most of the African population’s demand for grain, in the next few decades the African population will grow by a factor of 2.6 and grain demands even 3.4 times.
Therefore in 2050 self-sufficiency on existing farm land is only feasible if the yield per hectare will rise to 80% of the potential, just as in the Netherlands or the United States.
As a result, an annual increase in yield per hectare of 130 kg must be achieved — starting now.
If that fails, then major expansions of farmland are required, which will be at the cost of natural habitats and increased greenhouse gas emissions, or enormous grain imports that must be paid with scarce foreign exchange.
In some countries, the required area is simply not available, and expansion of farmland is not sustainable, explains one of the researchers, Professor Abdullahi Bala from Nigeria.
Modernisation of agriculture in Africa Consequently, according to the international research team including Kindie Tesfaye from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) in Ethiopia, a rapid intensification of African farming is required.
Tesfaye also stresses the importance of improved farming with multiple crops per year and the expansion of sustainable irrigation.
The researchers from Wageningen University & Research, and their colleagues from African research institutes and the University of Nebraska, collected data from 10 African countries which accommodate 54% of the total population of sub-Saharan Africa and which contain 58% of the total cropland on this part of the continent.