Part 2: Issues in Sustainable Development



Agricultural productivity in Africa is disastrously low by world standards. The Green Revolution in Asia combined irrigation and fertilizer to rapidly increase agricultural production and decrease the workforce involved in agriculture. A parallel revolution has yet to occur in Africa, where lack of water resources and investments means that barely 6% of cultivated land is irrigated and inputs and research are generally lacking. The problem is made worse because of competition from subsidized food coming from outside Africa and from poor road infrastructure on the continent which makes moving agricultural produce from field to market difficult.

Main Idea

Agricultural productivity and food security

Key Concepts

      • Conservation and sustainable agriculture
      • Measuring food security
      • Irrigation
      • Agricultural productivity


Knowledge of

      • regional agricultural challenges
      • conservation and sustainable agriculture principles
      • food security issues

Understanding of

      • the reasons for undernourishment and food insecurity in Africa
      • the challenge of directing water resources towards the poor
      • how food security needs and poverty are pushing land and water resource degradation

Ability to

      • describe traditional, water-conserving agricultural practices
      • describe the potential benefits of organic agriculture

Core Readings

  1. Africa Environment Outlook 2, Chapter 3: Land, pages 82- 85
    Summary of African agriculture, undernourishment, and policy responses of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (4 pages)
  2. Water Use in Agriculture
    Explains role of irrigation in agriculture and regional issues in Africa, Middle East, and Small Island States, as well as the particular challenge of directing water resources towards the poor in the face of growing demand by cities
    (2 pages)
  3. Agricultural Productivity is Low and Falling
    Food security needs and poverty are pushing land and water resource degradation in developing countries (2 pages)
  4. Agriculture
    Summary of regional agricultural challenges (1 page)
  5. Population, Poverty, and the Environment
    Overview of the relationship between poverty and resource depletion due to food insecurity (2 pages)

Sustainability Strategies

  1. Community-based Natural Resource Management: “Tanzania: Participation in Irrigation Rewards Farmers,” pages 27-29
    Summary of program using traditional technique of tassa pits to increase productivity with low rainfall (3 pages)
  2. Organic agriculture and rural livelihoods
    Detailed case study of an organic agriculture project in Uganda (11 pages)
  3. Effective use of Pesticides/agro-chemicals at Weija Irrigation site
    Investigates the use of pesticides and chemicals in agriculture, levels of chemical residues, levels of poisoning, and risks of run-off; community cooperative for integrated pest management (2 pages)

Supplemental Readings

  1. Regional Overview - General economic performance
    Review of regional agricultural performance (6 pages)
  2. Achieving Food Security in Africa
    Identifies causes of food insecurity and steps that can be taken to overcome them (11 pages)
  3. Food Security and the Environment
    Short discussion of population pressure on arable land and specific farming techniques, such as integrated pest management, that are more sustainable
    (2 pages)
  4. Agriculture and Gender
    Brief discussion of the large role of women in developing countries’ agriculture and the need to direct more technical assistance to women (2 pages)
  5. Women Farmers’ Productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa
    Statistics on the role of women in agriculture, particularly cultivating cassava, and how gender inequality in access to resources decreases productivity of woman-controlled plots (8 pages)
  6. What is Conservation Agriculture?
    Discussion of the theory and practice of conservation agriculture (9 pages)
  7. Organic Agriculture in Africa
    Overview of markets, products, certification, policy, and challenges (3 pages)
  8. Poverty Reduction and Irrigated Agriculture
    Overview of rural development as key to poverty reduction and irrigation as key to rural development; some examples of appropriate technologies
    (pages 7-14)
  9. Tetse and Trypanosomiasis
    Detailed report on impact and control methods for these diseases (6 pages)
  10. State of Food and Agriculture 2006 Part II: World and Regional Overview, pages 83-107
    See page 102 for history of agricultural production in Africa (28 pages)
  11. Global Overview
    Statistics on trends in undernourishment, food emergencies, and food production by region; also includes statistics on cereal production, fisheries production, forest production (17 pages)
  12. Update on DTIE/ETB’s ongoing work on the promotion of trading opportunities for organic agriculture
    How organic agriculture (OA) offers environmental, social, and economic benefits for developing countries (2 pages)

Assignment Questions

  1. Agriculture: Characterize the situation regarding food security and agriculture in Africa.
  2. Agriculture: What role does irrigation play in agricultural productivity? What proportion of African agricultural land is irrigated?