Monday, November 13, 2006 - 9:30 AM

The African Green Revolution: Vision and Approach.

Pedro Sanchez, Earth Institute at Columbia Univ, P.O. Box 1000, Palisades, NY 10964-8000

In July 2004 the UN Secretary General called for a “uniquely African Green revolution for the 21st Century” because the original green revolution of the 1960-80’s essentially bypassed Sub Saharan Africa. Unlike the original green revolution, which emphasized improved crop germplasm in an environment with good soils and much irrigation, the African green revolution is envisioned to have five main components: agriculture, nutrition, markets, environment, and policies. The entry points for drastically increasing productivity are improved soil health and rainfed (“green”) water management. Then superior germplasm can take advantage of nutrient replenished soils and water management. Investing such farm inputs at the front end of the food chain have been found to cost about $60 per smallholder farm household in Malawi, whereas providing food aid for the same family would cost $400. Frameworks need to be developed at early stages for marketing subsidized nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers, nitrogen-fixing trees and shrubs, and hybrid cereal seeds through private-sector agrodealers. Other key interventions are instating school meal programs that use locally produced foods; providing micronutrient supplementation; using cereal banks, microfinance and crop insurance to make markets work for the poor; and practicing conservation agriculture through carbon sequestration and enhancing agrobiodiversity. Several African countries are beginning to implement this vision, albeit at a small scale. Food production in the first Millennium Villages has increased 3.5 to 9 times with this strategy. The bottom line, however, will be the transformation of sub-subsistence farmers into small-scale entrepreneurs producing high value livestock, vegetable, fruit and tree products, as well as agro processing.