The Fertile Continent

Author
Roger Thurow
Content Type
Journal Article
Journal
Foreign Affairs
Volume
89
Issue Number
6
Publication Date
Nov/Dec 2010
Institution
Council on Foreign Relations
Abstract
With one billion people already going hungry and the world's population rising, global food production must urgently be increased. The countries that managed such surges in the past -- Brazil, China, India, the United States -- cannot do so again. But Africa can -- if it finally uses the seeds, fertilizers, and irrigation methods common everywhere else.
Topic
Agriculture
Political Geography
Africa, United States, China, India, Brazil
Summary: With one billion people already going hungry and the world's population rising, global food production must urgently be increased. The countries that managed such surges in the past -- Brazil, China, India, the United States -- cannot do so again. But Africa can -- if it finally uses the seeds, fertilizers, and irrigation methods common everywhere else. ROGER THUROW is Senior Fellow on Global Agriculture and Food Policy at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. He is a co-author, with Scott Kilman, of Enough: Why the World's Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty. No comments have been posted. Would you like to leave a comment?Throughout this past summer, in the long-suffering hills of western Rwanda, legions of farmers toiled at their sloped plots. With hoes and axes, they crafted flat, wide terraces and a simple water-management system that would keep valuable topsoil in place. Their efforts were part of a $800 million investment program supported by the United States and other international donors that is meant to boost Rwanda's agricultural production and reduce its dependence on food aid. The farmers were reshaping their land in the hope that a new watershed, along with better-quality seeds and fertilizer, would double or triple their harvests of corn, potatoes, beans, and rice by the next season. As he patrolled the hillsides one day last June, Innocent Musabyimana, the project's manager in the Ministry of Agriculture, expressed a kind of desperate optimism. "To make our agriculture sustainable, we have to do this," he said. "Ninety percent of the country is like this, all hills. If we don't do anything, in 40 years, with the erosion, the farms will be gone." Musabyimana opened his arms wide. "This," he said, taking in the sweeping panorama, "is our future." He meant the future of Rwanda and the future of Africa. But he might as well have been talking about the future of the world, too. For what is happening on the hills near Lake Kivu is at the vanguard of an effort to reverse years of neglect in agricultural development, tackle widespread chronic hunger, and satisfy the world's ever-expanding appetite.