Sub Saharan Africa contains sixteen countries of the eighteen most undernourished countries worldwide. This is because that region registers a continually worsening per-capita production of food yearly. This is happening despite having the largest population predominantly practicing small scale farming, being the most hunger and poverty stricken region and being the continent that receives the most attention from the international community.
In low-income regions elsewhere in the world like Colombia and Asia , the introduction of fertilizer, high-yield seeds and small-scale irrigation that began in the mid-1960s boosted food productivity and opened the escape route from extreme poverty for huge populations. This agricultural takeoff in sub-Saharan is an urgent need and a possibility. This part of Africa faces a myriad of challenges that can only be resolved by introduction of new methods that can revamp agricultural production so as to enable the region cater for its immensely growing population. Sub-Saharan Africa experiences perennial droughts, animal and plant diseases, environmental degradation and climatic change, depletion on soil nutrients, soaring world food prices, political instabilities, pestilence and lack of personnel to help in revamping this important sector in the economy.
In this 21st century, The Rockefeller Foundation started a six-year program on improved crop varieties in Africa. This was based on specific pillars that have seen a major advancement in food security especially in East and South African countries. Cultivation of local talent in plant science, scientific development of more productive fertilizers and crops, modern farming methods, appropriate agricultural policies and getting government’ commitment on agriculture, creating conducive agricultural environments and irrigation were the main structures that were put in place to ensure the six-year plan was a success.
Through African agricultural research institutions, the idea of green revolution has been greatly boosted in the advancement of Norman Borlaug’s idea. Through institutions like the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) funded by the Bill & Melinda Gate Foundation, the Rockeffeler Foundation and other government sponsored institutions and universities, having African scientists have rolled their sleeves in the quest of this achievement.
Among the major achievements attained by this program, it has supported the development and release of more than one hundred new crop varieties, dozens of which is a breeding of a breakthrough rice variety that is proved equal to the challenges facing other rice farmers in Africa such as weeds, pests, weeds, drought and diseases that have hindered the rice farming for decades. Since the 1990s, new varieties have been developed including the New Rice for Africa or Nerica among others that are now been cultivated on more than 350 000 acres in the sub-Saharan African countries. These crop varieties have proved successful and sustainable in this hostile African environment.
Nerica, besides its advantages in food supply and source of income, it has far-reaching social effects. It has a short growth cycle, weed, disease and pest resistant. However, the Nerica program has been beset by problems getting the rice into the hands of farmers, and to date the only success has been in Guinea where it currently accounts for 16% of rice cultivation
The introduction of the Green revolution in Africa has however faced challenges that have seen it less successful. Some of the major reasons stated as hindering the revolution include insecurity, widespread corruption, and lack of proper infrastructure, land partitioning, lack of knowledge and general lack of political good will from African governments to appreciate and incorporate agricultural biotechnology in their farming habits. Poor infrastructure has posed a challenge in that farmers in the remote areas can no longer access modern and high-yielding farm inputs that are resistant to the hostile environmental conditions. In Africa, there is a more diverse range of suitable crops that fits the climate and soils. This makes engineering of farm inputs difficult. Yet it is possible to develop these higher-yielding crops suitable to Africa’s diverse regions, especially if the region’s farmers become part of the breeding, testing and selection processes in the production path.
Additionally, Africa has fewer teams of trained scientist that are available to put the knowledge into practice for the purposes of large breeding programs. Division of land into small pieces has also hindered the progress of the revolution. These farms favor small scale farming instead of commercial farming.
To achieve their objectives, these foundations have given in to the need of developing genetically engineered seeds and recruitment and training of local African scientists familiar with circumstances on particular areas where they work so as to practice crop-breeding programs. The Rockeffeler foundation is currently supporting 25 crop breeding teams in various agricultural research institutes as well as training 35 to 40 masters’ students and 50 plant breeding doctoral students from Africa in different learning and research institutions in the world. The founders of this foundation, however, recognize that for a full-scale Green Revolution in Africa, there is need to educate more talent so as to multiply the number of output to the desired level.