Climate change, food insecurity, low crop yields and significant growth in the population are four of the factors that will dictate the agricultural and economic shape of Africa during the next century. Even if the continent’s countries can successfully negotiate more lucrative trade deals and policy reforms, Africa will still have to produce more food for its people.
For this to happen, updated agricultural practices have to become the norm, and it’s up to smallholder farmers to make this happen. This requires having information that is relevant to the area and accurate. Unfortunately, smallholder farmers in Africa have limited access to these details, and this is largely due to a lack of modern technology.
Agricultural extension services could prove to be a solution to this problem. The services involve employing extension officers who promote the incorporation of new technology and methods. However, this program is severely under-funded. It’s also fairly common for government extension officers to be responsible for thousands of households, and this is difficult and sometimes impossible to manage.
As a solution for the government extension officer shortage, many governments in Africa are embracing the farmer to farmer extension program. This is where local members of the community become leaders for farmer and deliver necessary information to those who are growing and cultivating food for the area.
Fourteen months of fieldwork was conduct to see whether the farmer to farmer program is effective. Six countries in southern and eastern Africa participated in the project.
African farmers reported that there are several factors that make the system dysfunctional. One of the issues was trust, since some lead farmers were not approachable due to gender or religious biases. Lead farmers were also handling certain agricultural issues correctly, according to the farmers under their leadership. Jealousy was also a huge factor, since the lead farmers were often supplied with all they needed to try new technologies, while the farmers under them still struggle financially and agriculturally. This led many farmers to feel as though the system is unfair and does not benefit African communities as a whole.
For more information on agricultural disparities in Africa and possible solutions, check out the Huffington Post website.