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"Juma: Africa Can Feed Itself in a Generation"
Newsletter Article, Belfer Center Newsletter, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
Author: Greg Durham, Former Project Coordinator, Agricultural Innovation in Africa Project; Faculty Assistant to Calestous Juma
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: Agricultural Innovation in Africa
Africa can feed itself in a generation. The newly released book The New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africa offers this bright outlook for the continent’s future. Authored by Calestous Juma, director of the Belfer Center's Agricultural Innovation in Africa (AIA) project, The New Harvest makes innovation in agriculture the heart of sustained economic growth on the African continent.
Working outward from that center, the book tackles each of the main components necessary to produce a thriving agricultural sector. Infrastructure, education, leadership, entrepreneurship, and regional cooperation are all shown to be foundational components of productivity on the continent. As Juma puts it: “Agriculture is a system, not a single activity. If you don’t have the ability to transport goods, to provide energy for food processing, communicate to rural areas, or the ability to irrigate you will not have productive agriculture.”
In The New Harvest, Juma insists that this dramatic change can take place solely from African nations utilizing existing resources without having to seek largescale aid from abroad. “A technological abundance exists in the world today, and while finance may be in short supply, knowledge is infinite,” he says. Africa must properly employ that knowledge through its existing institutions to produce agricultural productivity and economic growth.
Universities, for instance, must be refocused to become the basis around which knowledge can be turned into services and products. Services and products in turn must be brought to markets by reliable and efficient communication and roads systems. Barriers to trade must be removed by the regional cooperation of nations to produce larger and more robust markets.
All of this, the author insists, rests on strong and sustained leadership. “Experiences on the continent itself, such as those of Malawi and Rwanda, show that this is the first time we have seen African presidents take agriculture seriously,” Juma writes. The book itself features endorsements of four sitting presidents and was formally launched in Tanzania by five heads of state—Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda—representing the East African Community.
Since its release, The New Harvest has received worldwide attention. Journalists from 47 countries writing in 13 languages have covered the messages of the book in hundreds of print, web, radio, and television features.
With the first edition selling out during the second month of its release, Juma and the staff of the AIA project are currently revising The New Harvest for its second edition and forthcoming translations. Juma insists that the message will remain the same: “When it comes to the role of innovation for development you have to take some risks. This book demonstrates what can come from people taking risks to do something new.”
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