The Fertile Continent

Africa, Agriculture's Final Frontier

Courtesy Reuters

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

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