A study analyzes agricultural self-sufficiency in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) by 2050. The population of SSA is projected to increase by 2.5-fold by 2050, whereas regional cereal consumption may approximately triple by the same year. Food security depends on whether SSA can increase cereal production without increased reliance on cereal imports or major expansion of agricultural area, potentially resulting in increased greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss. To assess agricultural self-sufficiency in SSA, Martin van Ittersum and colleagues used an upscaling approach that incorporates local crop, soil, and weather data to estimate production capacity for the five main cereals across 10 nations in SSA. To maintain the current 80% level of cereal production self-sufficiency, the region would need to nearly close the gap between current crop yields and crop yield potential on current farmland. Most of the countries would require a large, abrupt acceleration in the rate of crop yield gain to meet this goal. The analysis finds that complex techniques for increasing crop yields will be required to reach self-sufficiency, including increasing the number of crops harvested from a field each year and sustainably expanding irrigated farmland. If SSA cannot quickly improve its yields, the region will likely experience an increased reliance on cereal imports and cropland expansion, according to the authors. - Read at PNAS.org
Article #16-10359: “Can sub-Saharan Africa feed itself?” by Martin K. van Ittersum et al.