Whether for profit or social motives - and often both - an increasing number of investors are targeting opportunities in African agriculture. At the same time innovative approaches for deploying aid to support farming businesses linked to smallholders are emerging. This blog provides a snapshot of who is doing what, where and how.

14 June 2011

Land grabs or economic development?

An interesting article on the land grab phenomenon by Professor Calestous Juma of Harvard University, author of The New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africa appears in Kenya's Daily Nation. Juma argues that campaiging organisations like the Oakland Institute are wrong to paint all private sector investment in African agriculture with the same brush. It is true, he says, that many of the mega-land deals on the continent are not structured to benefit local communities. But a moratorium on all foreign investment would, in his view, amount to economic suicide for Africa, where access to infrastructure, skills and technology to drive increases in agricultural productivity is desperately needed. For example, only seven per cent of African agriculture is irrigated — 3.6 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa — compared to 47 per cent in south Asia. The challenge is to find ways of promoting socially-responsible investment where benefits are widely shared with local farmers and communities. Get this right, Juma argues, and Africa could feed itself within a generation.