Could Africa Feed Itself Someday?

The Future of American Power
Oct. 7 2012 4:15 AM

Could Africa Feed Itself Someday?

Somali farmer
A young Somali farm worker tending a crop of maize in Dollow, northern Somalia.

Photo by Tony Karumba/AFP/GettyImages

Editor's Note: This is from my weekly Globalpost.com column.

Michael Moran Michael Moran

Michael Moran is an author and geopolitical analyst.


An African Agricultural Powerhouse?

Advertisement

The situation was grim. It was November 2005, and for more than a year, less than an inch of rain had fallen on much of the country. Irrigated tobacco farms, mostly foreign owned, had managed to survive, but in a land where 70 percent of GDP is based on farming — mostly an acre or less per plot — the prospect of extended drought raised the spectre of famine.

A desperately poor place, Malawi for years had been almost completely dependent on a mixture of tobacco export revenue, international aid donations and IMF and World Bank loans. Scientists have long understood that the vulnerability of the soil in Malawi and other places to drought was not merely a question of water, but also of nitrogen, the key ingredient in fertilizer that farmers elsewhere can afford but which was well beyond the reach of the average Malawian cropper.

So Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika stepped in, funding the distribution of small amounts of fertilizer to farmers all across the country.

The World Bank, led at the time by Paul Wolfowitz, the former Bush administration deputy defense secretary, objected to this move, as did the IMF. But Mutharika persisted, and within one harvest season, his farmers not only produced enough food to feed itself, but also enough to donate to neighbors in need.

TODAY IN SLATE

Doublex

Crying Rape

False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.

Scotland Votes to Remain in U.K.

There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

Can Democrats Keep Counting on Republicans to Offend Women as a Campaign Strategy?

Culturebox

Theo’s Joint and Vanessa’s Whiskey

No sitcom did the “Very Special Episode” as well as The Cosby Show.

Television

The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Cliff Huxtable Explains the World: Five Lessons From TV’s Greatest Dad

Why Television Needs a New Cosby Show Right Now

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 18 2014 8:20 PM A Clever Attempt at Explaining Away a Vote Against the Farm Bill
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 18 2014 6:02 PM A Chinese Company Just Announced the Biggest IPO in U.S. History
  Life
The Slate Quiz
Sept. 18 2014 11:44 PM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 18 2014 8:07 PM Crying Rape False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Every Day That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 4:33 PM The Top 5 Dadsplaining Moments From The Cosby Show
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 6:48 PM By 2100 the World's Population Could Be 11 Billion
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 18 2014 3:35 PM Do People Still Die of Rabies? And how do you know if an animal is rabid?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.