AFRICA ENVIRONMENT OUTLOOK
Past, present and future perspectives

IMPORTANCE OF CULTIVATION AND LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION IN EASTERN AFRICA

Although most people in the sub-region are involved in subsistence agriculture, commercial agriculture is also an economic mainstay, contributing significantly to employment, GDP and exports. In Burundi and Rwanda, for example, more than 90 per cent of the workforce have been employed in agriculture for the past three decades (World Bank 2001). In Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda, rates of employment in this sector have been between 80 and 95 per cent (World Bank 2001). The main crops are: bananas; beans; cassava; coffee; cotton; maize; millet; rice; sesame; sisal; sorghum; sugar; tea; and wheat. Economic contributions from agriculture have been significant over the past 30 years, including an average of 45 per cent of GDP in Burundi, Ethiopia and Uganda, and 21 per cent of GDP in Kenya (World Bank 2001). The value of agricultural exports from the sub-region is also substantial, reaching US$526 million in Ethiopia and US$1157 million in Kenya during 1997 (World Bank 2001). Considering that these are among the poorest countries in the world, the value of agriculture, and the precariousness of depending on so few rain-fed crops, cannot be underestimated.

EXTENT AND PRODUCTIVITY OF CULTIVATION AND LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION SYSTEMS IN EASTERN AFRICA

The total area under cultivation has increased over the past three decades for all countries, except for Burundi, which has experienced a slight decline (FAOSTAT 2001). Food production has also climbed over the past 30 years, although with considerable inter-annual variation. However, population growth has exceeded increases in production. The drier countries in the Horn of Africa, where climatic variation and drought are more common, show the greatest overall decline in per capita food production, and the greatest variation between years, as shown in Figure 2f.8 and Figure 2f.9.

This has resulted in declining food security, and decreased per capita food intake. Daily per capita calorie intake in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi was less in 1997 than in 1970 and, in Ethiopia, almost 50 per cent of the population is undernourished (UNDP 2000, FAO 2001c). Over the same period, there were declines in per capita supply of protein and fats in the same countries (UNDP 2000). Malnutrition is also of serious concern, and deficiencies in iodine and vitamin A are common among children below the age of six years in Ethiopia (FAO 2001c).

Declining per capita food production and per capita food intake is causing the countries of eastern Africa to become more and more dependent on food imports and food aid. For example, Ethiopia has been a food-deficit country for several decades, and average cereal food aid during the period 1984-99 was 14 per cent of total cereal production (FAO/AGL 2000). These severe droughts and food shortages catalysed the need for a drought monitoring facility for eastern and southern Africa. In March 1985, the leaders of the meteorological centres of the region met in Nairobi, and agreed to establish the present Drought Monitoring Centres (DMCs) in Nairobi (Kenya) and Harare (Zimbabwe), within the respective meteorological departments. The main objective of the Drought Monitoring Centres is to provide early warning of drought, based on meteorological information, thus preparing countries and alleviating the devastating impacts of drought. A regional project, 'Drought Monitoring for Eastern and Southern Africa', was set up in January 1989, with 21 participating countries, namely: Angola; Botswana; Burundi; Comoros; Djibouti; Ethiopia; Kenya; Lesotho; Madagascar; Malawi; Mauritius; Mozambique; Rwanda; Seychelles; Somalia; Sudan; Swaziland; Tanzania; Uganda; Zambia; and Zimbabwe. The second phase of the project included Eritrea, Namibia and South Africa (DMC 2002). Other responses include the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force strategy for improving food security, which focuses on the underlying causes of chronic food insecurity in the seven countries. It proposes diversification of livelihoods away from the traditional dependence on agriculture, as well as means of enhancing resilience to climatic variation within agricultural practices. Macro issues, such as market reforms, improving access to trade and information, and environmental protection, are also central to the strategy (UN 2000).

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Figure 2f.8: Crop production indices for Eastern Africa, 1970-2000 (total and per capita)

Source: compiled from FAOSTAT 2001

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Figure 2f.9: Livestock production indices for Eastern Africa, 1970-2000 (total and per capita)

Source: compiled from FAOSTAT 2001