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Farming For Africa's Future

By Lydia Baldridge Meier

“Three quarters of the world’s poor and chronically hungry people live in rural areas and are also mainly dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods. Smallholder farmers and rural entrepreneurs could contribute much more to producing food, job creation, national economic growth, and the preservation of natural resources. Yet they often lack the tools to do so. And many of those who are producers of food go hungry themselves.

Investment in rural development is key to delivering a host of development objectives, including adequate food, clean air, fresh water and biodiversity. And growth in the agricultural sector has been estimated to be at least three times more effective in reducing poverty as growth in any other area. In sub-Saharan Africa, the figure is 11 times.”

When I read the above in yesterday’s new article from Harvard Business Review, I was floored. On a human level, the notion that three out of four of the hungriest people in the world are farmers for a living is staggering. It goes back to that long road from farm to table I wrote about last month – that subsistence farmers endure a hungry season every year that puts their health, their children’s schooling and their family’s security at risk. 

But the HBR article sheds a hopeful light – that growth in Africa’s agricultural sector could be 11 times more effective at reducing poverty than growth in any other area. That is reason to double down on our efforts to bring effective solutions to Africa’s small-scale farmers. They hold the key to the continent’s emergence from poverty. 

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