How can we improve agricultural productivity?

How we can improve agricultural productivity?

Written by Timilehin Alonge.

Posted: 04th October, 2018


Agriculture is inevitable for any country that needs to survive. It is hard to exaggerate the role that agriculture plays in human development, it recognizes the need to eradicate poverty and hunger in our generation, it is seen as a driver of economic transformation in Africa and origin of civilization not only in Africa but also in all part of the world. Despite these crucial and significant value of agriculture, Agriculture still faces many challenges, making it more and more difficult to achieve its primary objective – feeding the world – each year.


Agricultural productivity is the term given to the output of agriculture in terms of the inputs such as the capital and labour. It is being measured as the ratio of agricultural outputs to agricultural inputs. The need to increase agricultural productivity for the attainment of food security cannot be over-emphasized. Aside from providing more food, increasing the agricultural productivity affects the continent’s prospects for growth and competitiveness, income distribution and savings of stakeholders in agriculture, and labour migration. An increase in a region's agricultural productivity implies a more efficient distribution of scarce resources.


In the past, African farmers have received little support especially when compared to that given to many Asian farmers during the green revolution. Indeed, for most of the last fifty years, farmers in Africa have been subject to negative net rate of assistance when considering the balance between public spending and protection on the one hand and forms of explicit taxation on the other.


The big question is how best can African farmers be supported to raise productivity and production. Key elements include public goods for agriculture and remedying market failures. These three building blocks of support for agricultural development act in concert. Unless all three are attended to, then growth will be difficult.


Expatiating on these points, states need to invest in public goods. During the 1980’s and 1990’s, both government and donors invested too little in agriculture in Africa and neglected programs and policies to promote the sector. The increased public investment agreed in Maputo 2003 needs to provide public goods; physical infrastructure such as roads, powerlines and sometimes also irrigation and drainage. Also, subsidies potentially counter market failures. Subsidies inputs have been effective in raising agricultural outputs. During the early phases of the green revolution in India, studies show returns to subsidies on fertilizer were high, although not later as might be expected if the subsidies allowed farmers to learn about fertilizer use and to achieve sufficient level of fertilizer trade to lower cost of supply. When, in the 1970’s and 1980’s, public agencies in Africa promoted maize production in countries such as Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe with heavy subsidies on the costs of transporting inputs to farms and shipping produce back, the response from farmers was strong, especially in remote areas. In these cases, increased production helped reduce the real cost of staples on domestic markers. Currently, several African countries have re-introduced fertilizer subsidies, most notably Malawi.


Before concluding, there is a need for us to know the sources of agricultural productivity which include adopting mechanization for farming activities, the use of high yielding varieties of seedlings, incrase in the use of organic and inorganic fertilizers, also, we need to educate farmers as to management and entrepreneurial techniques to decrease fixed and variable costs and optimize manpower. Other effective ways through which we can improve agricultural productivity include the liming of acid soils to raise pH and to provide calcium and magnesium, adopting irrigation systems for all-season cultivation, application of herbicides and pesticides in their appropriate and prescribed quantities, increased plant density. Also, animal feeds need to be made more digestible by processing them well and keeping the animals indoors in cold weather.


In conclusion, if these highlighted points can be adhered to, agricultural productivity will greatly be improved.