Agro Nuggets

Facts about Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa – World Bank, FAO Facts



63 percent of total Sub-Saharan population lives in rural areas, whereas 74 per cent of all Europeans -citizens live in urban areas and 26 per cent in the countryside. Overall there are 854 Million people living in Sub-Saharan Africa, compared to 502 million in the European Union.

According to the World Bank, about 69 per cent of all sub-Saharan Africans work in agriculture. In the EU, currently only 5.1 per cent of the population makes their living with agriculture – the majority of people work in sectors of industry or services.

Approximately half of Sub-Saharan African farmers are women. Over the last thirty years, female farmers became increasingly important for African food supply

The number of children per African woman has declined since the early 1980s. Today, an African mother gives birth to and cares for five children. Statistically she provides for 3.4 more children than a European woman. In comparison, during the past 40 years, European women have birthed less than two children.

Sub-Saharan African agricultural cropland (per capita) exceeds cropland in the EU, but arable land per family/farm is seven times smaller than in the EU. 

About 8.5 per cent of Sub-Saharan African land is used for agriculture. On average, 2,387 m2 per person are available which is slightly higher than in the EU (2,221 m2). Unfortunately, no statistical data exists about the area of agricultural cropland per Sub-Saharan farmer. Estimations predict that 85 per cent of all farmers in developing countries cultivate less than two hectares. In comparison, EU farmers’ cropland is seven times bigger. Another notable difference is that farmers in developing countries often do not have enforceable tenure on their cultivated land, which is often leading to conflicts.

Many African farmers practice subsistence agriculture growing roots, tubers and different kinds of crops on very small areas (usually less than 2 hectares).

According to the online database of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the ten quantitatively most important agricultural products are cassava, sugar cane, maize, yams, cow milk, plantains, wheat, rice, sorghum and tomatoes. Most of these products are traditional African staple food and not meant for export to Europe or other international markets.

Sub-Saharan African agricultural productivity (yield per hectare) is about 50 per cent of its European equivalent. The differences in productivity are even bigger among Sub-Saharan countries.

The EU annual income is about 13 times as much as the average annual income in Sub-Saharan Africa. In consequence of an uneven income distribution 73 per cent of Sub-Saharan Africans live on less than $2 (€ 1.51) per day and 51 per cent on as little as $1.25 (€0.94) per day.

Overall, the rural population is hit much harder by poverty than people living in urban areas, which is one of the reasons for rural-urban migration prevalent in SSA.

Another interesting figure is the share of income spent on food. Estimations predict that in the Majority World, about 55 to 70 per cent of total income is spent on food, with only 12 per cent in the EU.

International staple food prices soared up by 170 per cent between 2000 and 2010. In some parts of Africa, regional and local price fluctuations were much bigger.

Especially in East Africa price volatility was exceptionally high. High food prices in combination with a bad harvest due to drought made ten million people dependent on food aid.

Global Economic development expressed by Gross Domestic Product per person and global agricultural productivity seem to be connected to each other. This observation cannot be found for sub-Saharan Africa yet.

The majority of Sub-Saharan African countries (blue) are on the lower left side of the Gapminder graph. This section is characterised by a very low productivity (vertical axis) and a low Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita (horizontal axis).

Harvest in most Sub-Saharan African countries yields less than four tons per hectare. While the, rich countries’ productivity is in general much higher than the one from low income countries.

In 2007, only three countries (Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea) with an income under $2,000 had a maize yield of four tons per hectare or more, whereas only three countries (Bahamas, Japan, Saudi Arabia) with a per capital GDP of $20,000 and above had Maize yields under four tons per hectare.

Cross-country estimates show that GDP growth originating in agriculture is at least twice as effective in reducing poverty as GDP growth originating outside agriculture.

The poorest 20 per cent of the population benefit most from agricultural GDP growth. For this group of people, the graph shows that an agricultural GDP growth of one per cent leads to an increase in expenditures for non-durable goods (products someone consumes immediately, such as food) of 4 to 6 per cent, whereas non-agricultural GDP growth is contributing only for one per cent higher expenditures and is even negative for the poorest five per cent of the population.



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