Green revolution farming has not yet reached deeply into sub-Saharan Africa. Between 1970 and 1998, while the share of cropped area planted to modern green revolution varieties increased to 82 percent in the developing regions of Asia and up to 52 percent in Latin America, only 27 percent of area was planted to such varieties in sub-Saharan Africa.
As a consequence, average cereal yields in Africa remained at only 1.1 tons per hectare versus 2.8 tons per hectare in Latin America and 3.7 tons per hectare in Asia. Also as a consequence, growth in per capita food production in sub-Saharan Africa was actually negative between 1980 and 2000, and one third of all Africans remain undernourished.
Efforts were made to introduce green revolution seed varieties into Africa in the 1960s and 1970s, but there was little adoption because the international assistance agencies introducing the varieties had tried to “shortcut” the time-consuming process of identifying and using locally adapted plants as the
starting point for breeding improvements. Varieties not suited to African conditions were brought in from Latin America and Asia, and African farmers did not like them. This problem was belatedly addressed through breeding programs that were more location specific c beginning in the 1980s, but by that time, international assistance for such programs had begun to decline because the so-called world food crisis of the 1970s was deemed by rich donor governments to be over.
African farmers also failed to take up the new seed varieties because they had a more complex mix of agro ecologies, and a smaller share of their land was suited to conventional irrigation. Access to farmland is generally more equitable than in either Latin America or Asia, but only 4 percent of agricultural land in Africa is irrigated. This forces farmers to rely on uncertain rainfall and weakens their incentive to invest in improved green revolution seeds, which only do well with adequate moisture. In addition, the dominant food crops in the region included root crops like sweet potato and cassava, or tropical white maize, rather than the leading green revolution cereal crops such as wheat, rice, and yellow maize. Critical as well, most farmers in Africa are women, lacking the political voice needed to demand government investments in rural education, road infrastructure, and electrical power of the kind that were essential to the earlier uptake of the technology in Asia.
From the Book – FOOD POLITICS (ROBERT)