I was struck this week by an article on Devex highlighting how the popular narrative about Africa’s growth is being challenged. The article points out that, despite national-level economic growth in many African countries, the benefits of that growth are failing to trickle down sufficiently; when two in five Africans surveyed say that they are unable to meet their basic needs and are food insecure, such a conclusion is hard to argue with.
Small-scale farmers in the more rural areas of Africa is one group that is not seeing the benefits of economic growth. They remain unable to meet their basic needs. In a fascinating study, Will Masters and colleagues contrast remote, rural regions with the more dynamic zones that develop along transport routes from urban centres. The low productivity and high transaction costs for farmers in these rural regions mean that agricultural households have limited economic opportunities either on or off-farm.
It is the people in these rural regions, those who have been left behind by the Green Revolution, that the CGIAR is now focused on. These are the people who are most in need of the new and different investments the CGIAR is now making. In this respect, I think the new CGIAR Research Programs on Dryland, Semi-Humid Tropical and Aquatic Agricultural Systems hold particular promise because they seek to work with communities to find solutions that are tailored to local contexts and build on the assets those communities possess. This approach will help millions and is an important addition to the portfolio of development approaches we need to help Africa rise.