Home to some of the world’s fastest-growing economies and to some of the poorest, the East and Southern Africa region displays remarkably diverse levels of economic growth.
Unfortunately, this growth has not automatically led to a reduction in poverty. Instead, there has been an increase in the number of people living below the poverty line. This is partly because Africa has the largest proportion of young people, many of whom are unemployed, in the world.
Over 65 per cent of the population of the region depends on farming. Yet, in recent years, there has been a decline in agricultural production triggered by drought and climate change.
Fundamental weaknesses in the agricultural sector have prevented a broad-based reduction in rural poverty and inequality, leaving many small farmers trapped in poverty. In particular, these include a lack of secure access to land, credit, and markets, notably for women and young people.
Overcoming obstacles, raising incomes
Nevertheless, economies in the region are evolving and opportunities are emerging. Strong investment from remittances and a buoyant private sector, and a growing middle class, provide resources and boost demand.
However, there have been different levels of progress in terms of development, economic growth and sustainable rural transformation. Some more developed markets, such as those of South Africa, have relatively sophisticated supply chains and infrastructure. In others, long distances and isolation pose obstacles that prevent smallholders from accessing markets and urban consumers, and thus from increasing their incomes.
Partnerships that put people first
At IFAD, we work closely with governments to develop policy frameworks.
When shaping projects, we choose a variety of strategies tailored to each set of local circumstances. We identify the core problems and provide blended solutions, including better agricultural technologies, finance, empowerment of women and young people, natural resource management and adaptation to climate change.
Working with governments, NGOs, local people and organizations, we help smallholder farmers introduce better farming techniques and crops; and access markets to enhance incomes, food security, and nutrition. We also connect farmers to rural entrepreneurs with access to finance. This helps ensure that growth is inclusive, sustainable and diverse.
The proof: by the end of 2016, 16 of the region’s governments had partnered with us for a total of 42 programmes, and our financing commitment was for over US$2 million.
Agriculture is the largest sector in the East and Southern Africa region, employing 65 per cent of Africa’s labour force and accounting for over 30 per cent of the region's GDP.
Economic growth has done little to reduce hunger in the region: malnutrition levels are only 5 percentage points lower than in 1990.
Maize, wheat, rice, millet, potatoes and cassava are the main agricultural trade commodities for the region, generating estimated annual trade revenues of US$50 billion.
Amidst drought and flooding, Malawian farmers look to diversify their diet
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