In Kenya, a company called Solar Wind East Africa is building five solar-powered stations to pump water and make electricity for rural livestock farmers. In Benin and Tanzania, byproducts of making agricultural goods like palm oil and cocoa are being fed into new mini-grids that generate up to 50 kilowatts of electricity for homes and businesses. And in Uganda and Mozambique, the sun and biogas are fueling refrigeration systems desperately needed by small-scale farmers to bring crops and milk to market.
Across Africa, homegrown and international technology trials are sprouting up to help farmers make more income and grow more and better food. Which of these will end up being widely adopted is still anybody’s guess, but there can be no doubt that focused agricultural innovation and education efforts will unlock huge dividends around the continent.
Africa holds about 60 percent of the world’s arable land, a natural resource that, if managed well, could easily provide the continent with enough food and more income from increased agricultural exports. Improving agricultural practices means a major upgrade in quality of life for many Africans due to the sector’s huge footprint around the continent. The World Bank says the typical farm economy for each country below the Sahara represents up to 40 percent of gross domestic product and 70 percent of the labor force.
“Agriculture is a proven driver of transformational change,” said the World Bank’s Juergen Voegele, head of the organization’s new Agriculture Global Practice.