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Despite the fact that the agricultural sector in sub-Saharan Africa holds enormous potential, it has not been able to meet the high demand for food in the region. Agricultural production worldwide is growing, nevertheless famines and food shortages remain constant risks, making food security a key issue for countries in this region. At the World Food Summit in 2006, food security was defined as follows; “Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”
Agricultural production is the backbone of society and socio-economic development, few examples illustrate this as clearly as Europe in the aftermaths of World War II. The agricultural sector lay waste leading to millions of Europeans starving, relying on foreign food aid for survival. It therefore became a societal and political prerogative to rebuild a strong agricultural sector. The foundation of the European Economic Community in 1957 provided the basis for the Common Agricultural Policy implemented from 1962 onwards. The common organisation of markets in agriculture pursued the goal of higher agricultural productivity through technological developments and the supply of customers with sufficient and affordable food. Accordingly gaining independence from foreign food imports and thus attaining food security.

By introducing tariffs on imported foodstuffs and implementing minimum price levels for European products Europe managed to stimulate incentives for high productivity and achieve self-sufficient food production within a decade. By the 1970s Europe was in fact producing more agricultural produce than it consumed and consequently began exporting surpluses. By granting export subsidies European products were able to sell under global market price levels, thereby clearing stocks and reducing storage costs. The decision to subsidise European exports played a major role in the ensuing fall in global market prices for agricultural products; these dropped by half between 1970 and 2000, notwithstanding the short peak in the late 1970s. Since the turn of the millennium a rise in food prices is noticeable and the influence of the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union on global agricultural prices still prevails.
The extensive increase in productivity throughout Europe lead to a redistribution of jobs from the agricultural sector to the services and industries. Today not even 5 percent of the population is employed in the agricultural sector and agriculture only makes up 2 percent of the European value added chain. For European consumers this development has been highly beneficial, currently only approximately 12 percent of income is spent on foods. If however the 60 billion Euro the EU spends on European agriculture is taken into account each EU citizen pays an additional 120 Euro.

The picture in sub-Saharan Africa is a very different one, here 50 to 80 percent of the population base their livelihood primarily on agricultural activity and about 30 percent of countries’ economic value added is created by the agricultural sector. The majority are small-scale farmers who work with simple tools for cultivation or apply traditional stock farming on farmland that is often not bigger than two acres.
Most farmers practice subsistence agriculture, growing staple foods for self-consumption and only rarely trading on markets. Small-scale farmers thus do not generate income through sales of agricultural produce and are not integrated in the economic cycle. Subsistence farming in Africa has its limitations leading to regional food shortages and famines, as witnessed in the past decades. Most recently famines caused by prolonged periods of drought in the summer of 2011 left 10 million people in East Africa without adequate food supplies and in 2008 millions of people were unable to pay for the rising food prices.

There are multiple and highly complex causes which trigger such crisis. On the one hand due to reduced infant mortality rates and higher life expectancy we are observing a high population growth rate; between 2000 and 2011 the population grew by more than 200 million from 666 million to 875 million people and UN forecasts predict an increase to 1.5 billion by the year 2050. A development, which renders questions of food security even more pressing in the years to come.
On the other hand depleted soil conditions as a result of over-exploitation and the implications of climate change – long periods of drought and flooding – are further contributing factors. Numerous challenges have to be faced starting with limited access to markets due to high transportation costs, missing infrastructure as well as post-harvest losses caused by unsuitable storage facilities and insufficient processing industries for agricultural produce. Additionally socio-political problems, such as recurring violent conflicts and uncertainties concerning the rule of law (unclear property and use rights) are impeding long-term investments into agriculture.

In the coming years an increase in productivity of small-scale farmers needs to be attained in order to increase food production in sub-Saharan Africa. The World Development Report indicates that farmers in this region have great potential, however the yields per acre are still not even reaching half of the productivity of European farms. Labour productivity, showcased by the average net value added by agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa, as calculated by the World Bank, only reached USD 324 per year or USD 0.89 per day, compared to USD 17,484 per year in Europe.
In order to increase agricultural productivity and production in the long term, the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme CAADP was initiated in 2003. The CAADP is part of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), which aims at sustainably reducing hunger and poverty in Africa through support of agriculture. In the Maputo Decision in 2003 member states of the African Union declared to henceforth dedicate 10 percent of state spending towards national agriculture with the goal of increasing agricultural added value from currently 4 percent per year to a minimum of 6 percent per annum. This is very sensible, considering that various studies have shown that people living in extreme poverty benefit up to six times more from growth in the agricultural sector than in any other economic sector. The CAADP has furthermore set its goal to achieve this growth in an ecologically sustainable manner. At the time of publication 29 countries have developed and signed national strategies for the implementation of the CAADP. Implementation is set to take place in the coming decade.

The Global Growing Campaign offers valuable insights into the complex issue of agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa, thereby contributing to raising awareness for development issues in Europe.
This publication includes contributions by leading experts in order to shed light on causes and frameworks, in-depth country analysis, giving insight into concrete factors influencing agriculture, as well as case studies, demonstrating how innovative projects in the agricultural sector in sub-Saharan Africa can noticeably improve living standards.

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