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This article is from the In-Depth Report The Global Food Crisis
See Inside May 2008

The African Green Revolution (Extended version)

The continent is overdue for an agricultural boon like the one that lifted Asia's prospects

New international donors have also stepped forward. The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, sponsored by the Gates and Rockefeller foundations, has given a massive boost to the agenda. Aid to Africa from the governments of wealthy countries has been promised to double between 2004 and 2010, and much of that should go to agriculture. 

An additional reason speaks to the urgency for change: Africa’s vulnerability to food insecurity has skyrocketed. The population has outstripped the food supply, the only region of the world in which this is true. Climate change is already wreaking havoc on crop yields, and the changing timing and increased unpredictability of rains. Depletion of soil nutrients has reached crisis proportions across the continent. Soaring world food prices has put a crippling burden on Africa as a net food importer. This way lies disaster.

Here are bold but realistic goals that Africa and its donor partners can adopt: to double grain yields in Africa by 2012, to graduate at least three quarters of African smallholder farm households from subsistence to commercial farming within a decade, and to expand nutrition programs alongside increased food production to cut the ranks of the hungry by at least half by 2015.

We should establish a special fund for the green revolution in Africa akin to the highly successful Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. An annual flow of $10 billion from the rich countries, half through the fund, would finance the needed breakthroughs. It would amount to roughly $10 per person in the donor countries, a modest sum that would give Africa the historic opportunity to banish extreme poverty and chronic hunger for hundreds of millions of its people. 

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