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2013 GAP Report: The Sub-Saharan Africa Challenge

Featured Article

By Dr. Margaret Zeigler
Global Harvest Initiative 

Today, October 16, the Global Harvest Initiative released our 2013 GAP Report® at the World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa. The African presence at the World Food Prize is always significant. Dignitaries, farmers, agricultural experts, and international development professionals, among many others, travel to Des Moines from far and wide to learn and to meet new people that share their vision to improve global food and nutrition security.

It is always great to be a part of the World Food Prize and to experience first-hand the collective power of people around the world who are dedicated to addressing the global agricultural imperative. Each year I am left with a great sense of optimism.

The findings of the 2013 GAP Report also give reason for optimism, albeit cautious: over the past decade, countries are managing to maintain growth in agricultural productivity on global average.  But those findings should not downplay the serious and urgent fact that we must maintain an increasing rate of global agricultural productivity year after year for the next 40 years.

While global total factor productivity appears to be on track, regional details indicate vast differences in agricultural productivity improvements. Total factor productivity (TFP), is the ratio of agricultural outputs to inputs. Total factor productivity rises when outputs increase and inputs remain constant.


The 2013 GAP Report updates the estimates from the 2012 GAP Report, and the chart (left) illustrates that the gap between food demand and TFP-driven agricultural output levels will continue to increase unless significant investments are made to improve productivity through research and through increasing farmers’ access to improved inputs, technology and extension services.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, the average annual growth in food demand is projected to be 2.91 percent per year from 2000 to 2030, primarily due to population increases. If annual TFP growth continues at the 2001-2010 average rate of 1 percent, it will only meet 25 percent of total food demand in 2030. Filling this expanding food gap by 2030 will require improved cultivation and livestock practices, better quality and more precise inputs, selective expansion to high-quality agricultural lands and imports.

The GAP Report also highlights the different policies that are best suited to improve agricultural productivity based on income levels. For low-income and developing countries, TFP growth must continue to improve in order to minimize the impact on the natural resource base. Raising productivity in these countries will require a comprehensive approach to create enabling environments for new investments, technologies and practices.

DRC Plowing Source, UMCOR

A special focus on smallholder farmers and women will be required to help them participate in more inclusive agricultural value chains. Continuing public-private partnerships−−like the Water Efficiency Maize for Africa (WEMA) program led by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, and USAID, and with agricultural and technical support from Monsanto, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), and five National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa−−as well as building the capacity of agricultural research and extension programs are key actions that low-income developing countries must take to improve TFP.

For the first time, the 2013 GAP Report includes several case studies that demonstrate the impact of five policy areas critical for meeting the food and nutrition needs of the future, including reducing trade barriers, promoting public- and private-sector investment, increasing investments in research, and coordinating international development assistance.  Many of these case studies demonstrate that with the right set of policies, investment and innovation, the challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa are not too great for us to overcome!

To learn more and to read the full 2013 GAP Report, we encourage you to visit the Global Harvest Initiative website.

Dr. Margaret Zeigler is executive director of the Global Harvest Initiative. Margaret has dedicated her career to addressing global hunger and food security, and for 18 years served as deputy director at the Congressional Hunger Center where she worked closely with the public and private sectors, non-profit organizations, industry leaders and policy makers to promote food security and reduce hunger. Margaret is a recognized thought leader on food security issues, serving as a media commentator and writer for several publications and news networks around the world. You can find Margaret on Twitter at @Harvest2050_MZ

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