Successes in African Agriculture: Lessons for the Future

In This Review

Successes in African Agriculture: Lessons for the Future (International Food Policy Research Institute)
The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010
464 pp. $45.00

Per capita food production has declined across Africa for most of the postcolonial period, and exporters of cash crops have lost market share to Asian producers. These failures matter because a majority of Africa's poor still derive their incomes from agriculture. As the editors of this collection of insightful essays note, foreign aid to African agriculture has been cut in half since the early 1990s, the victim of changing donor fashions, and African governments too often neglect the needs of small-scale agriculture. Given the pervasive sense of failure in the sector, the book's novel approach is to examine success stories -- the introduction of improved varieties of cassava in central Africa and maize in southern and eastern Africa, cotton production in Mali, and the horticultural export booms in Côte d'Ivoire and Kenya. In each case, the authors credit agricultural research, technological breakthroughs, and incentives that increased productivity. In a sense, these insights are nothing new, which raises the question of why funding for African agricultural research has remained so woefully inadequate.