Carl K. Eicher, "Facing up to Africa's Food Crisis," Foreign Affairs, Fall 1982.


Main point

The African states are suffering from a food production gap, the food production problem, hunger, and poverty. Agricultural development is a key to solve these problems which have continued these decades, but the procedure is relatively slow so donor agencies should be patient enough to wait for solving the African statesf basic technical, political, structural and policy constraints for 10 to 20 years.


The chief problem of food and hunger crisis in sub-Sahara Africa in the 1980fs was ga food production gap and hungerh, which of the former resulted from the growing population and which of the latter resulted from poverty. As food imports of the countries in the region goes up over the past two decades, balance of payment deficits and external public debts have increased, being deteriorated by the world economic depression. In spite of aids from donors and some organizations, the solution of this crisis couldnft be solved except considering ga number of difficult political, structural, and technical problemsh. The key question of this crisis is, why the Green Revolution neglect Africa.

As common features in African countries in terms of food crisis,

@.Population densities are very low relative to Asia.

A.Most of the economies are small.

B. The colonial legacy is embedded in peoplefs attitude toward agriculture

and development.

C. Africa is an agrarian-dominated place. Almost all farmers are small, so

the poor performance of them caused more constraints on development.

D.The land area is near maximum population densities given current

technology and available expertise on soil fertility.

In Sahara African countries, population growth, food imports, and poverty emerged.

@.Government couldnft reduce fertility in the 1980fs because of the failure

of family planning programs, the indifference of most African heads and

intellectuals, and so on. But growing population could not be neglected.

A.The food importsf increase during the 1960fs and the 1970fs led to lagging

domestic production, urbanization, availability of food aid, overvalued

foreign exchange rates, and the increase of rice and wheat consumption.

B.The increase of food production with the same income rate emust go

beyond crash food production campaigns to deal with poverty itselff

because of the linkage between food production and the hunger problem.

From these reasons, Africa canft feed itself.

Besides, these constraints can be resulted from historical perspective.

@.Colonial approaches

The importance of external markets relative to internal markets prevented the investments on human capital and research on food. Besides, many colonial regimes had little investments on food crops since the population growth rate was not so high at that time.

A.5 keys debates about the low priority on food production over the past 25


  1. The low priority to agriculture because politicians, even if they were capitalists or socialists, considered agriculture as a gbackwardh sector which will eventually lead to dependency.
  2. The main three drawbacks of the gpolitical economyh; an assumption of economics as one discipline, urban areasf job scarcity, and the lack of enough understanding in the agricultural sector by the macro models.
  3. Negative pricing policies and heavy taxation decreased food production and exported crops. African states have to stimulate farmerfs incentives and their income level so as to abate poverty.
  4. Although introducing agrarian capitalism or socialism was under discussion over the past 30 years, the choice of a national ideology is nothing but gone variable influencing the outcome of agricultural development projectsh.
  5. Despite the Green Revolution, the cereal yields in African countries were stagnant since 1965 and the productivity of farmers kept its low rate.

These debates indicate the failure of African nationfs agricultural policy over the past decades and consist of the main explanations of the current food crisis.

Though something should be done for the food crisis in African countries, it is true that African countries already have enough lands to produce more foods and vast foreign aids. Yet, the recent reports on African situations in terms of food and hunger exaggerate the need for more foreign aids. As effective steps for reconsidering about the agricultural development policy and finding the long-term solutions in African nations;

@. African states, donors, and economist have to stop to say the ambiguous

slogans about basic needs

A. The restructuring of the crash food production projects and the

reassessment of integrated rural development projects are necessary to

establish the trust between African nations and donors

The policymaker in each nation should reconsider their strategy with 2 goals; attaining a enough food surplus and decreasing the number of people in hunger. In terms of the policy reform, the reduction of governmentsf authority was the main problem and parastatals caused the inefficiency of the food production. The food policy reform should be accompanied with not only raising the price of food and exporting crops but also food aid for development though food aid is a controversial topic.

The solution of this food crisis in African states depends on the long-term agricultural research for dry land with food crops and with livestock and for irrigation. The problem is whether donors can stand up with the long-term(at least 10 years) investments. African states have to proceed the strategy with bilateral donors. Then they also need the more investments on human capital which includes graduate agricultural training programs. Yet, agricultural study is still undervalued in the universities compared with law, medicine, and history. Donors preferred investments on food production, IRD projects, and agricultural research institutes. However, donors should demand the structural reform of the universities to African states instead of the commitment for the long-term aid. The graduate training in agriculture will have to come from within Africa. Moreover, agricultural research on food production, the creation of jobs in rural areas will be a prerequisite to solve the hunger, malnutrition, and poverty problem.

From these backgrounds, both donors and African states are prisoners of projects and slogans. The question whether the aid for Africa should be double in real terms during this decade depends on how these problems will be concluded;

@. Long-term Planning

A. Aid Coordination

B. Developing Food Policy Strategies

C. Technology Transfer

D. Foreign Private Enterprise

Although donors think that African states are dependent to foreign aids and transactions already and even they have an excess of those, the donors have to think about the long-term development project and investments. The doubling aids would be valid if African states shift their strategy of agriculture and introduce policy reforms.

Summary by Yukiko Motohashi