African food production is on the decline
Agriculture is not only a vital source of food in Africa; it also is the prevailing way of life. An average of 70% of the population lives by farming, and 40% of all exports are earned from agricultural products (WRI, 1996). Onethird of the national income in Africa is generated by agriculture. Crop production and livestock husbandry account for about half of household income. The poorest members of society are those who are most dependent on agriculture for jobs and income. On average, the poor from developing countries of SSA spend 60-80% of their total income on food (see Odingo, 1990; WRI, 1998; FAO, 1999b).
Food production in most of SSA has not kept pace with the population increase over the past 3 decades. In Africa as a whole, food consumption exceeded domestic production by 50% in the drought-prone mid-1980s and more than 30% in the mid-1990s (WRI, 1998). Food aid constitutes a major proportion of net food trade in Africa, and in many countries it constitutes more than half of net imports. In Kenya and Tanzania, for instance, food aid constituted two-thirds of food imports during the 1990s. Despite food imports, per capita dietary energy supply (DES) remains relatively low (Hulme, 1996); about one-third of the countries in Africa had a per capita DES of less than 2,000 kcal per day in the 1990s, which is lower than the minimum recommended intake (data from WRI, 1998). Agricultural and economic growth must rise perhaps by 4% per year to realize basic development goals. Today, only a few countries achieve this rate of growth. One consequence of agricultural growth could be the doubling of cultivated land area by 2050 at great cost to the natural environment-unless there is greater investment in agricultural management and technology on existing cropland (Anon, 1999). A major challenge facing Africa is to increase agricultural production and achieve sustainable economic growth; both are essential to improving food security.