Stories

Challenges in modernizing agriculture

From Chapter 6 of the African Transformation Report

Improvements in agricultural technology have come slowly in Africa, and not much is known about the diffusion of better technologies. In many ways, Africa is late in developing research capacity, and many crops and commodities had very little research effort until the past 10–20 years. In addition to research and technology, many challenges remain, including:

  • Roads. Many rural areas are cut off from markets so it is very costly to move goods— including agricultural inputs and outputs, but also nonagricultural goods.
  • Power. Electricity is essential for agricultural processing and postharvest uses of crops and livestock. And for dairy products it allows cooling and makes more efficient collection schedules possible.
  • Irrigation. Infrastructure to convert rainfed to irrigated farming will be a public good in some places and purely private in others. But irrigation has the potential to transform agriculture in many locations, both by increasing productivity and by reducing weather risk.
  • Competition. Rural isolation opens the door for noncompetitive behavior. With rural markets spread thinly and handling low volumes, traders can often set prices for both farmers and consumers. Transport also lacks competition, especially on long-haul and cross-border routes. Mobile phones can reduce information asymmetries.
  • Property rights. Tenure security is necessary for farmers to invest in longterm land improvements, but in most parts of Africa, cadastral surveys are lacking, and formal programs of land registration and titling have not advanced far. Customary systems of property rights provide adequate security for traditional agriculture, but it is not clear that they can provide the tenure security required for agriculture’s transformation. And western-style land titles and markets cannot be introduced without doing violence to existing economic, social, and cultural arrangements. An enigma.

Source: ACET agriculture study prepared for this report.

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