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Africa Feeding Itself

By Allison Kooser

This summer, we are exploring the path from Farm to Table - exploring the many issues smallholder farmers face around the world. 

In this year’s Gates Annual Letter, Bill and Melinda Gates described five big breakthroughs that they think will happen in the next 15 years. The second of these five? That Africa will be able to feed itself.

Currently, American farmers get five times as much maize from their land as African farmers do. But with the introduction of higher-quality inputs and innovative farming techniques, we can begin to solve these disparities. We can improve the harvest for farmers in Africa. 

As the Gates letter outlines, there are four keys to agricultural productivity:

  1. Proper use of fertilizer – making soil healthier and more productive.
  2. Crop rotation – varying and diversifying crops to protect the soil.
  3. Timing – planting at the right time to maximize crop yields.
  4. Techniques – planting seeds correctly to improve the quantity and quality of crops.

Opportunity’s Agriculture Finance initiatives address many of these challenges – equipping farmers to move from subsistence to commercial agriculture. And as farmers begin to increase their yields, they are better able to support their families.

According to the Gates Letter, innovations in farming could enable African farmers to increase their yields by half. This progress is made possible by tools similar to those provided by Opportunity International.

Agricultural loans come in the form of high-quality seed and fertilizer, improving the quality of inputs to make crops healthier and stronger. 

Training from loan officers and experts educates farmers on how and when to plant to improve yields and treat the land well.

This isn’t going to happen overnight – but it is going to happen. It’s why Opportunity is exploring and investing in innovative agricultural products. It’s why we believe that people can move from subsistence to commercial agriculture. It’s why we provide continued support to farmers.

I can’t wait to see what we accomplish together over the next 15 years. If the Gates Letter is any indication, we are going to do big things. 

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