Visions of a sustainable food future

Debisi Araba, Regional Director, Africa


“As Africa transforms, we want to ensure that farmers’ investments in agriculture become a conduit for better financial, social, and health outcomes”

African agriculture: paving the way to prosperity

My grandfather remains an inspiration to me. He made his fortune trading in Lagos with merchants from around the world in the early 1900s. Then, when his business became a success, he and a few friends volunteered to build a road, linking his hometown to Lagos, to help others literally make the journey to prosperity.

The result was the 24-kilometer, four-lane Ikorodu road, which today cuts the time it takes to get to Lagos from Ikorodu town, helping transform the fortunes of the millions who use it daily – from farmers bringing their goods to market, to blue- and white-collar professionals heading to work.

People like my grandfather understood the value of going the extra mile – of turning today’s challenges into tomorrow’s solutions. I believe that as Africa invests in vital infrastructure, from roads and high-speed internet, to sustainable power, we will see the continent’s fortunes transform.

This will usher in unprecedented opportunities for farmers. They will have lower transaction costs and better access to agricultural inputs, markets, and market intelligence. Food production will continue to shift from subsistence to commercial farming and profitable agribusiness, with entrepreneurship coming to the fore.

As Africa transforms, we want to ensure that farmers’ investments in agriculture become a conduit for better financial, social, and health outcomes, despite the pressing challenges posed by extreme weather and increasing land degradation. Over the last 40 years, CIAT has been a partner in this transformation. Improved beans, developed by CIAT and our partners, are now grown and consumed by millions of people, contributing to healthier diets and improved nutrition. Our work to restore and improve soil fertility has helped breathe new life and productivity into degraded lands. We want to continue to empower farmers to grow and feed their families with more nutritious food, while also reaching lucrative new markets.

For African agriculture to really thrive, I believe that we will need to complement the investments and efforts of small-, medium- and large-scale enterprises with our scientific expertise, to help them identify new opportunities, technologies, and solutions, to ensure the biggest possible impact.

Today we don’t just need to build one road – there are no silver bullets. We need a whole network of solutions to ever more complex problems. If we are to meet the targets laid out in the Sustainable Development Goals, we need to create multiple pathways for the millions of farmers and agro-entrepreneurs on their route to prosperity, so that together we can cover the last mile, like my grandfather did a century ago.

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