If agriculture is to continue to feed the world, it needs to become more like manufacturing. Fortunately, that is already beginning to happen. Agriculture is one of Namibia’s most important sectors.
The majority of Namibia’s population is dependent directly or indirectly on the agricultural sector for their livelihoods. Agriculture’s contribution to GDP has been commendable.
Livestck farming contributes to approximately two-thirds of agricultural production, with crop farming and forestry making up the remaining third of production. How can this showing be replicated in the future to make sure more benefits are derived from this all-important sector?
Of late, farms are becoming more like factories: tightly controlled operations for turning out reliable products. In the short run, these improvements will boost farmers’ profits, by cutting costs and increasing yields, and should also benefit consumers (meaning everyone who eats food) in the form of lower prices.
In recent years, the export of crops, vegetables, fruits, and forestry products have grown by value. Also, the rise in unnatural processed foods and the awareness that they will eventually kill us has sparked a newfound interest in agriculture. The average consumer now wants to know where and how their food is grown or raised, and this demand is shaping the way large and small farmers plant, raise, and track their product.
It is no doubt that technology will play a massive role in allowing farmers to manage their farms. It will also help consumers learn more about the food they eat. But other than the trend towards provenance in agriculture, what more will define the future of agriculture?
At a continental level, the key drivers of this next chapter of African agriculture will be the rapid population growth on the continent.
However, the elephant in the room will be the fact that Africa has not yet been able to demonstrate a model of how agriculture moves people out of poverty.
Consequently the agriculture sector, which provides livelihoods for the majority of Africans must be able to address endemic poverty in the African countryside, as well as urban poverty associated with those that have trekked to sprawling urban centres.
This crisis, that agriculture must respond to, is compounded by an equally huge challenge of climate change which finds most of African agriculture largely ill-prepared. The climate change pressure means that in responding to its agricultural system crisis, Africa must modernise its agriculture in a climate responsive manner.
The Covid-19 global pandemic has also pointed to a now irrevocable fact that the world is connected. Global food security will have a big impact on how African agriculture progresses into modernity. The challenge of feeding its population will require that Africa’s contribution to global food security increases.
African farmers have experienced diminishing returns from traditional crops, which also have not provided food security or a pathway out of poverty. If one looks at a scorecard of African agriculture in the last decade, it’s clear to see that transitioning to modernity will be a mammoth task.
All of agriculture requires the use of often finite natural resources, such as soil, and water and most inputs into agriculture like fertilisers also rely on non-renewable minerals.
The future of modern agriculture in Africa therefore will require considered use of natural resources in order for the promise of a modern African agricultural sector. So the future of modern agriculture in Africa is going to be about natural resources, and their efficient and optimal use.
In short, the future of agriculture is now. Lets get on the train, lest we forget such opportunity.