Is African Agriculture Sustainable Enough to Support an Agro-Allied Industrial Development Strategy? Evidence from Ghana and Nigeria


Accelerating agricultural productivity: technology and innovation, assets, access to finance


  • Stephen Onyeiwu

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The notion of an agro-allied industrial development strategy in Africa presupposes the existence of a vibrant and sustainable agricultural sector. We suggest in this paper that this assumption may be too heroic and unrealistic. Using evidence from Ghana and Nigeria, we show that the agricultural sector of African economies has faced considerable challenges within the past 50 years or so. Although agricultural production on the continent rose by an annual average of 2% between 1965 and 1980 and has continued to increase by 1.8% annually since then, population growth of 2.9% per year has resulted in a per capita decline in agricultural production. From self-sufficiency in food production before the 1960s, many African countries have become net food importers, with a handful of them facing severe food shortages arising from drought, desertification, climate change and wars. We argue that soil conditions, climate change, and population growth, in combination with ineffective economic policies, have contributed immensely to the sordid state of agriculture in Africa. We use historical and contemporary evidence gathered from Ghana and Nigeria during several visits to show how economic policies have interacted with biophysical and environmental factors to generate an unsustainable use of land, agricultural labor, and natural resources. Based on our field research, we propose an “agro-entrepreneurial” model of agriculture that combines sustainable farming practices with entrepreneurship. This model enables farmers to take advantage of emerging markets in the food value chain, as well as enhance their living standards and self-esteem.

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