1.1 Reducing Hunger in Africa 6

1.2 Coping with Climate Change 7

1.2.1 Impact 8

1.3 Estimating Biomass of Young Tropical Vegetation 8

1.4 How to Measure Soil Carbon 9

1.5 Sharpening Predictive Tools for Key Agroecosystems 10

1.6 Adapting to Thermal Damage 10

1.7 Mitigation 12

1.7.1 High Carbon Sequestration Potential of Tropical Agroecosystems 12

1.7.2 Carbon Sequestration by Smallholder Farming Communities 15

1.8 Conclusion 16

Acknowledgment 16

References 16

Most of the world has witnessed dramatic increases in per capita food production over the last 30 years. However, the opposite occurred in Sub-Saharan Africa. Per capita food production in this region continues to decline, and hunger, largely due to insufficient food production, affects about 200 million people, 34% of the region's population (Table 1.1). Projections to 2015 suggest that hunger in Asia and Latin America is likely to decline with continued economic growth, while in Africa it is likely to remain constant (Dixon et al., 2001). The difference is that enough food is produced in countries like India and China. Hunger in these nations is primarily caused by unemployment and a corresponding lack of income-generating capacity. Africa simply does not produce enough food. The lack of a major impact of the Green Revolution in this region is one key reason for this difference.

The Green Revolution is one of the major accomplishments of the past 30 years. During this period, the number of rural poor decreased by half, the proportion of malnourished people in the world dropped from 30% to 18%, and the real prices of main cereal crops decreased by 76%. It was initiated by a small group of determined scientists and policymakers who identified a need for high-yielding varieties of rice and wheat. Then enabling government policies, fertilizers and irrigation, better marketing, infrastructure, national research institutions, strong agricultural universities, the

Table 1.1 Basic Hunger Statistics in Developing Regions of the World

Per Capita Food Caloric Intake Undernourished

Table 1.1 Basic Hunger Statistics in Developing Regions of the World

Per Capita Food Caloric Intake Undernourished

Production Index







Sub-Saharan Africa




South Asia




East Asia




Latin America




Source: Food and Agriculture Organization. 2003. FAOSTAT: FAO Statistical Database. Available at:

Source: Food and Agriculture Organization. 2003. FAOSTAT: FAO Statistical Database. Available at:

international agricultural research system, and other necessary factors were put in place. However, the contribution of improved varieties to crop yield increases has been 70% to 90% in Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, but only 28% in Africa (Evenson and Gollin, 2003).

A major biophysical reason and a major economic reason help explain this discrepancy. The major biophysical reason is that unlike other developing regions, soil nutrient depletion is extreme in Africa. Therefore, the key need is not to improve varieties, but rather to replenish soil fertility at the lowest possible cost (Sanchez, 2002). Closely related to improving soil fertility is the need to improve small-scale water management, provide small-scale rain-fed farms with critical life-saving irrigation, and grow high-value crops. Soil fertility goes hand in hand with water in many regions. Even with excellent genetic improvements, crops cannot grow well without sufficient nitrogen, phosphorus, or water. These are biological imperatives that transcend socioeconomic and political ones. The major economic constraint is poor rural infrastructure in Africa. Road density for rural dwellers in Africa is only one-sixth the average of Asia (Paarlberg, 2002). Hence, access to markets is difficult; fertilizer prices are two to six times higher at the farm gate in Africa than they are in the rest of the world; health, education, and sanitation are often appalling; access to information is poor; and prices drop precipitously when crop surpluses occur.

Research scientists have also learned that community participation in research and development can work. A new paradigm, based on natural resource management, has emerged. It addresses soil and water issues as well as pest management constraints in ways that minimize tradeoffs with environmental services (Izac and Sanchez, 2001). Furthermore, an enormous biotechnology potential exists to address these issues through crop genetic improvement (Wambugu, 1999). We know more about the crucial need for functional markets for the poor, farm diversification, trade imbalances, environmental services, and a reawakening of the importance of agriculture as the engine of economic growth. It is very positive to see agricultural scientists interacting with counterparts who focus on environmental, macroeco-nomic policy, health, education, gender, water and sanitation, energy, and other development sectors.

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