. "8 Sustainable Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa: "Lessons Learned" from the United States." Toward Sustainable Agricultural Systems in the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2010.
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Toward Sustainable Agricultural Systems in the 21st Century
2006; Pretty, 2008). There was also a dramatic, if often overlooked, rise in consumption of animal-origin food products in developing countries, mostly in Southeast Asia and China. On a quantity basis, the additional meat, milk, and fish consumed between 1971 and 1995 in developing countries was two-thirds as important as the increase in wheat, rice, and maize consumed (Delgado et al., 1999). The increases in food production outpaced population growth and greatly reduced the incidence of chronic famine and the threat of starvation in many areas of the world, even as global population grew from 3 billion to 6 billion during that time period.
The historic transformation of agriculture across the world was massive and unprecedented, but its impact was not universal. In certain regions of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, small-scale farmers did not adopt the suite of modern agricultural technologies needed to obtain the gains in productivity because the package of new technologies generally favored large farms that had access to irrigation, improved varieties, and inorganic fertilizers, which many small farms did not have, nor could afford. In addition, Green Revolution technologies worked best in large areas of uniform cropping and irrigated systems, such as the high-production rice and wheat systems in Asia, or in rain-fed environments where both climate and soil quality are favorable for crop growth , such as the wheat systems of northwest and central Europe and maize-based systems in North America (Cassman, 1999). In contrast, as discussed below, Africa’s highly diverse cropping systems are primarily rainfed, on poor soils, and inherently riskprone.
Where the Green Revolution was successful, other problems developed—loss of local crop genetic diversity; fertilizer and pesticide contamination of water systems; pesticide poisoning of agricultural workers, beneficial insects, and wildlife; depletion of ground water sources; large concentrations of animals in urban environments where the regulatory framework governing livestock production is weak; degradation of rural grazing areas; and the clearing of forests (Delgado et al., 1999; Pretty, 2008). These problems are not confined to developing countries, and, indeed, some might be more acute in the developed world than in developing countries.
The transfer of modern agricultural technologies in general from developed countries to small-scale poor farmers in developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, has been ineffective for several reasons. First, African farmers produce a wide variety of crops using diverse farming systems across a range of agroecological zones. Second, they are largely dependent on rain-fed agriculture, and many areas have soils that are severely depleted of nutrients. External inputs are expensive, and high transportation costs and lack of infrastructure often inhibit access to outside resources and markets. Third, African farmers’ perspectives, knowledge, and cultures were not taken into consideration during the technology development process (InterAcademy Council, 2004). Consequently, many modern agricultural practices that were successful elsewhere were not applicable to the complex needs of resource-poor small farming systems (Sands, 1986; Ashby, 1987; Lado, 1998). Furthermore, many sub-Saharan African countries do not invest much into agricultural research and development (Morgan and Solarz, 1994), so that they lack the capacity to adapt modern agricultural practices to local conditions.
A Second Green Revolution
Many organizations and governments in Africa are calling for a second Green Revolution (InterAcademy Council, 2004; Toenniessen et al., 2008; African Green Revolution, 2009; IAASTD, 2009). Unlike the first one that largely bypassed Africa, some argue that a second Green Revolution should be based on technological developments and favorable policies