29 April 2008

Salzburg Global Seminar: Seeking a Green Entrepreneurial Solution in Africa

A "Green Revolution" in Africa?

It may be a good idea; it may even be a necessity. But one hopes we learn from the lessons of the Green Revloution in Asia of the 1960s and 70s and apply those lessons to Africa.

While there were definite benefits and succeses in terms of agricultural yields and production:land ratio -- especially in certain parts of Asia -- there were also negative impacts and unintended consequences.

As I understand it, these negative impacts essentially came from three inputs: increased reliance on chemical fertilizers and irrigation, promotion of the monoculture-style farming popular in the day, and depletion of genetic diversity and soil health that put farmers at higher risk.

The environmental degradation this caused in some places (not all) is well-documented. The impacts are still being felt by people and communities in many parts of Asia.

But we've learned alot since then and part of the solution requires such inputs. We need be vigilant, however, to better monitor these inputs as we seek to increase outputs.

As important, perhaps, is to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit of Africans, both farmers and non-farm entrepreneurs.

Smallholder farmers in particular can help maintain the diversity of species and soil health, keep more of the income generated local, and respond to local changes brought about by global warming and other impacts.

Entrepreneurs working in the non-farm economy can promote access to markets and to microcredit, alternative energy development, and other livelihoods. Again, ensuring a local response to needs and impacts.

My point is, any Green Revolution in Africa must engage, invest in, and deploy entreprenurial Africans.

The continent is full of entrepreneurial people. We only need welcome them to the table and ensure they have a voice in crafting any solutions.

Africans helping Africans. Now there's a concept whose time has come.

(En route to Salburg Global Seminar.)