A look at how African farmers developed agriculture and tackled challenges in 2015

The push to see Africa grow its Agriculture continued in 2015 with governments encouraged to improve infrastructure and technology for farmers. Areas being farmed by African smallholders are only producing around one metric tonne per hectare, compared with seven tonnes in developed markets. An ongoing drought in southern Africa also affected crop yields this year and forced farmers to cut the size of their herds.

OGUN, NIGERIA (REUTERS) – Governments on the continent were being urged to spur growth in African agriculture, and address the need to improve transport and power infrastructure 2015. Banks were also encouraged to lend to farmers.

The growth of Africa’s middle-class combined with a fall in the prices of technology has opened up opportunities for investment in farms on the world’s poorest continent.

In Nigeria, the government wants to boost the country’s agriculture sector to reduce reliance on crude oil exports, cut back on importation and generate jobs.

Adeniyi Bunmi was working on his plantain farm when we dropped by. Apart from growing crops he also offers plots here for sale to aspiring farmers.

Though Bunmi is passionate about farming he says he faces challenges marketing his produce. The rough road between Lagos and his farm makes it hard to transport produce to clients in the megacity, a bumpy two-hour drive away.

“Why toiling for one month, two months, three months or one year before you get your yam, before you get the yam into the market. So people don’t even want to invest, They would rather invest in a business that will bring the produce out very fast, so apart from the image problem that the agric, the set of the agric farmers have, another thing is the issue of funds. It requires a lot of capital,” he said.

Across the continent in northern Uganda, once a land of horrors, where the lord’s resistance army rebels once roamed, stalked and killed for nearly two decades. The region is emerging as an agricultural goldmine drawing in agribusiness investors.

David Ojok now cultivates sunflower seed in Lira. He is one of about 70,000 farmers who grow the crop for cooking oil production under the Mukwano out growers scheme.

“We used to have a problem because of Kony but he is now nowhere, he was a big problem to us but now we work freely, we can work on our fields for long hours, sometimes until sunset, the panic that used to be there is no more, this has given us the opportunity to expand our fields and produce more,” said Ojok.

In Lesotho, workers at the Highlands Trout project were busy breeding fish for export to customers in Japan.

The tiny African country with no coastline is using its Katse dam to run a fish farm project that wants to boost the country’s economy and meet demand for trout abroad.

“We have a good catchment area, we get low temperature and that suitable for the growth of our product which is rainbow trout. Also pollution and other problems that you get in city life you don’t get them here, we don’t get disturbances the fish can live peacefully,” said Mampoi Lerotholi a laboratory technician at the farm.

In Zimbabwe Majory Tererayi was inspecting her failed crop in Gokwe region, about 400 kilometers southwest of Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare.

Southern Africa is experiencing a severe drought, affecting the ‘maize belt’ of South Africa, where a lack of rain had caused crop failure rates of over 50 percent according to the World Food Programme (WFP).

“Children are crying because they need food to go to school as before but this season there is no food to give them,” said Tererayi.

In Kenya, farmers were experimenting with new low-cost, easy-to-use hydroponics system to grow livestock fodder which they say is helping them maximize output from their animals.

Osanya is a farmer in Transnzoia county, 380 kilometres North West of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. He grows barley using the technology for his dairy cows.

“The cereal whether it is sorghum, barley,oats or wheat could be carrying pathogens with it. And if you transferred pathogens to this unit behind me then the seed will not germinate or quite a lot will rot due to fungal infections,” explained Osanya.

Livestock farmers in South Africa had been hit hard by the ongoing drought, forcing many to sell their stock or lose animals on their farms. Effects of the drought have seen the government grant emergency aid to farmers.

In Zeerust in the North West province farmers like Keitumetse Marwala were already feeling the heat.

The drought in the country was worsening due to an El Nino weather pattern, threatening the diverse farm sector including its key maize crop. Keitumetse said it was becoming difficult to sustain her herd. On average one cow consumes 20 liters of water a day.

“There’s a severe drought here by us, because we don’t have food for the cows, we have to buy them food and it’s not raining. When it doesn’t rain there are more problems,” said Marwala.

Leon Masumbuko and his workers were in a forest just outside Kinshasa – capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, to harvest a batch of honey.

Sixty nine-year-old Masumbuko was an engineer with the government for most of his working life until he switched to a career in apiculture 14 years ago to follow an interest in traditional methods of beekeeping.

“We harvest honey the traditional way, which is what people here are used to, whereby we kill the bees in order to get honey. But as we try get better at it and improve, the way we harvest honey, one needs proper equipment, but also to get training. We have a long way to go. The main challenge is finding skilled beekeepers,” said Masumbuko.

Congo exports raw honey to Uganda but the industry is relatively small in the central Africa nation known more for its minerals.