In Sub-Saharan Africa, the majority of poor people are smallholder farmers. The naked facts are that agricultural yields are about 25% of the global average; fertilizer use per hectare is one seventh of in South Asia; and only 4% of farmland is irrigated. The low productivity of smallholder agriculture is the primary reason for the pervasive high rates of malnutrition in Africa.
Large productivity gains can be achieved in a relatively short time by introducing better agricultural inputs: seeds, fertilizer, crop protection or irrigation technologies. Africa needs more firms and stronger firms that can deliver such technology to the farmer.
Just as important, farmers need to be able to sell their produce in a market. Much too often, farmers are exploited by middlemen or prone to large price fluctuations. This situation prevents them from investing in more effective ways of farming. Companies that build long-term supplier relationships with farmers and farmer groups play a vital role in creating more reliable market access.
Agriculture has for several decades been an under-prioritized sector – by governments, business and the international community – and there is a potential for significantly more capital to be deployed in ways that reduce hunger, malnutrition and poverty in a cost-effective way.