Pedro Sanchez, Columbia University, The Earth Inst. at Columbia Univ., 2-G Lamont Hall P.O. Box 1000, Palisades, NY 10964-8000
Since our report to the Tri-Societies last year, the African Green Revolution called for by Kofi Annan is beginning to take off, creating a sense of optimism about tropical Sub-Saharan Africa’s ability to significantly and rapidly increase its agricultural productivity, a necessary condition for its economic transformation. The emerging African Green Revolution is largely the result of scientific advances in agricultural research, and a new political determination to harness those advances through new policy instruments. Old taboos against subsidies are giving way to new support for “smart subsidies” to enable the poorest of the poor to gain access to vital agricultural inputs. Malawi has tripled its maize production in 2 years, by following such a policy. Most of the 78 Millennium Villages are also drastically improving their food production and beginning the transition towards high-value products and agribusiness. Overall Sub Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa) is experiencing a 3.8% agricultural GDP growth since the beginning of the century, one of the highest in the world. All this raises questions about US food aid policy. It costs about $670 to deliver a metric ton of maize to Africa as US food aid, but it costs about $80 to produce an extra metric ton of maize by smallholder farmers when supplied with improved crop germplasm and appropriate rates of fertilizer.