Challenges of farming in Africa

Farming in Africa has a lot of challenges and at the same time it offers a lot of opportunities. This article will concentrate on the challenges facing a farmer in Africa. The challenges are many but the following are the key ones;

Purpose of farming

Many farmers venture into farming without a clear purpose in mind. Many farmers may be in farming because it is a status symbol in the community. The farming activity is not intended to give a reasonable return on their investment. Some people ventured into farming because their colleagues are also in farming. The peasant farmers just grow any type of crop without clearly understanding the bigger picture of growing the crops.

Lack of knowledge of modern farming

Many of our African farmers do not practice modern methods of farming. Many are still using hoes and basic equipment   as key farming implements. There is obviously a limit to how much work someone can do with these basic tools. Majority of farmers do not have access to tractors and other modern equipments. They do not irrigate their farms even if free water is available on their farms. They don’t use fertilisers and modern methods of controlling diseases. The farms are not properly prepared for planting.

Lack of farm equipment

Many farmers cannot afford to procure modern equipment like farm tractors and trucks because they are expensive. They do not have access to collectively owned farm equipment and facilities if they do exist. The governments have not set up farmer centres where farmers can go and hire equipments. The farmers’ income levels do not qualify them to approach a bank for financing. Besides, the cost of finance is also quite high for them to afford. Many financial institutions are also reluctant to lend to farmers to buy equipment because farming is classified high risk.

Lack of risk management strategies

There are many risks in the farming sector which our farmers cannot competently manage. There are no operational risk management strategies for drought, farm diseases, outbreak of caterpillars, market for farm output, farm staff malpractices and incompetent staff among others at both farm and national levels.

Lack of technical support staff

There are no competent, experienced, affordable and easily accessible advisors at the service of the farmers. Many of the experts in the areas of cattle, poultry, piggery, crop husbandry and other areas do not possess practical farm management experience. They tend to base their advice on what they were taught and read in the books. The realities on ground are not always according to what is taught and read in the books.

Many of the experts prefer to remain in their offices, to attend local and international seminars and conferences, to write their research papers instead of spending time advising farmers/peasants who are often located in inaccessible areas.

Lack trained labour

Many of the farm workers are semi-illiterate and not trained at all. Some of them cannot be trained at all. A farmer is therefore required to spend some time training workers. There is also the challenge of high labour turnover on the farm which makes it extremely difficult to train farm workers. There are also few farm training institutions which the farmer can access for trained labour.

Lack of market knowledge

Many of our farmers go into farming without fast studying the trends in the market. They do not produce what is wanted by the market but what they think the markets wants! Many farmers end up growing common crops like beans, maize, millet, sorghum etc. The market ends being over flooded with common farm output at the same time hence pushing the prices down.

Lack of competency for Value add

The Africa farmer lacks the capacity to add value to their farm produce hence they get low prices on the market. The market does not pay much for unprocessed farm output .Our farmers lack the capacity to carry basic practices like cleaning, sorting and grading the farm output. The farm produce hit the market unprocessed and unpackaged. Quality farm outputs for example fresh maize do not fetch premium prices on the market because they reach the market as unprocessed farm produce. For example goat meat from a quality goat may fetch the same price like any other goat as it is not differentiated on the market.

Lack of infrastructure support

The African farmers practice farming in hostile environment as there are no all weather roads leading to the farmers. There are no modern storage,   drying, sorting and cleaning facilities in place accessible to the farmers.

Fragmented land

Some people in some parts of Africa cannot engage in modern farming because they lack land or the land they are on has been too much fragmented to support any sizeable farming activity.

Way forward

The above challenges create a lot of investment opportunities which should be properly packaged and documented for the investing community. The African governments must create conducive environment to encourage both farmers and investors to venture into farming.

The African governments must honour their responsibility to provide infrastructure support in terms of roads and storage facilities among others to the rural farmers.

The governments must encourage the farmers to look at a bigger picture of farming instead of practicing farming to meet their domestic need of food.

Written by

John Muhaise-Bikalemesa
Fortune of Africa