Agriculture Reference
In-Depth Information
of the nutrients required to sustain yields in the United States (Stewart et al ., 2005). Although
tropical soils have very different sensitivities to high nitrogen levels, it is clear that higher rates
of fertilization could greatly increase productivity without requiring a transformation of the
agriculture sector.
Low levels of fertilization and other inputs such as herbicides and pesticides characterize
the subsistence agriculture sector in the developing world. Open pollination varieties, com-
bined with very low nutrient levels, means that the low yields seen over the past five decades
are actually declining. Soils in sub-Saharan Africa are being depleted at annual rates of 22 kilo-
oils in sub-Saharan Africa are being depleted at annual rates of 22 kilo-
grams per hectare (kg/ha) for nitrogen, 2.5 kg/ha for phosphorus and 15 kg/ha of potassium
(Smaling et al ., 1997). These declining soil fertility rates are resulting in declining per capita
food production, as well as other trends such as increasing populations and reductions in rain-
fall in key agricultural areas (Nelson et al ., 2010). Thus a key aspect of food production
increases needs to be increasing the accessibility of high yielding crop varieties and, most
importantly, fertilizers and other agricultural inputs that will help small farmers increase food
production in good weather years, and reduce vulnerability to crop failure in bad years.
Invest in marketing and food systems for climate resilient crops
Food systems need better food markets and transportation infrastructure, which will enable
the marketing and sale of agricultural inputs to farmers in poor and remote areas of developing
countries. Although it is easy to say that climate change and climate variability should be
taken into account when choosing what crop to plant, it is far harder to create the appropriate
institutional, marketing and demand infrastructure required to move from one crop to another
(Brown and Funk, 2008). There are several aspects to this problem that can improve the
ability of smallholder farmers to be less vulnerable to weather shocks and to reductions in
access to food. These are:
• improvetransportationinfrastructuretoincreaseconnectivitybetweenfarmersand
• increasetheproductdifferentiationofsmallholderfarmerssothattheycancompetemore
effectively in urban markets, so that they can be positioned higher on the value chain; and
• increasetheproductivityofeachieldandeachfarmer'senterprisesothatmorefoodand
more income are available in regions with high population growth rates and low
The impact of steady reductions in agricultural development in countries like Zambia are
stagnating yields and reductions in per capita food production (Funk and Brown, 2009).
These issues highlight the difficulties in transforming the agriculture sector by incorporating
single-sector fixes such as new seed varieties without also providing extensive new ways to
move agricultural inputs into isolated regions, strengthen and reduce the cost of transporta-
tion, and developing strong and consistent demand for the new agricultural products. The
entire value chain must be transformed if more productive farms are to succeed and raise the
living standard of its participants.
Because many low-income countries rely upon agriculture as the main source of employ-
ment, expansion of per capita agricultural production will, it is often thought, reduce poverty
rates and improve food security. But the most food insecure people in a region are also the
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