Enabling African Farmers to Grow Prosperity
The population in Africa is expected to almost double by 2050 and then double again by the turn of the century. At the same time, rapid urban migration and an expanding middle class will add further pressure on the food system. Increasing the productivity of smallholder farmers is critical to meeting the current and future needs of consumers in Africa.
At Corteva Agriscience™, the Agriculture Division of DowDuPont, we see an agricultural environment in Africa full of opportunities, and we believe in the potential of innovative technologies to offer a path towards greater resilience and prosperity. We are partnering with governments and donors to scale a broad range of seed, crop protection, and digital agriculture solutions to smallholder farmers to strengthen the food system and advance sustainable farming practices. Throughout Africa, these partnerships to advance hybrid millet, sorghum, rice and maize production have improved yields and created greater prosperity for smallholder farmers.
The foundation of these successful partnerships to scale agricultural innovations has been strong government leadership. For example, in the past 25 years the Ethiopian government has promoted policies and regulations which have resulted in a dramatically transformed maize seed industry. Ethiopia is now self-sufficient in maize and second only to South Africa in maize yield on the continent, with annual yield gains on par with that of the U.S. corn belt. There are no secrets to this success – the Ethiopian government created an enabling environment for the agriculture sector by facilitating the commercialization of new seed varieties and investing in extension and outreach. Corteva Agriscience™ is proud to have been part of this transformation through supplying high quality, highly adapted hybrids to farmers since the mid-1990s and partnering with the Ethiopian government and USAID to improve agronomic practices, post-harvest storage and market access.
Leadership at the regional level is also key to enabling innovative technologies to take root in African soils. The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) is strong example of leadership on the continent and continues to push member states on its “COMESA Seed Harmonization Implementation Plan” (COMSHIP), designed to harmonize seed trade regulation amongst member states. The result of full implementation of COMSHIP would be a more vibrant seed industry with consistent supplies of new genetics which would be more adapted to current farming environments. Farmers, along with consumers and governments seeking greater food security, have much to gain from seed harmonization in Africa.
Beyond the enabling environment, continual investments in research and development of new agricultural technologies are critical to strengthening food systems in Africa. As such, Corteva Agriscience™ has licensed its ground-breaking plant transformation technology to over 60 public research organizations. We are also working collaboratively with organizations such as the International Center for Maize and Wheat Improvement (CIMMYT), the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center to apply CRISPR-Cas gene editing technology to key food security crops, such as cassava, cowpea and millet, for improved quality and productivity benefits.
On a continent where over half of the population is directly involved in agriculture, a young and flourishing population will be the foundation of economic development for generations to come. A more productive agricultural sector, enabled by sound policies and regulations and accelerated by innovative agricultural technologies, will undoubtedly enrich lives and lead to an improved food system for both producers and consumers.