Norman Borlaug [Volume 14 No. 4 (2014)]


Obasanjo quote at one of the many SAA symposiums

Closing Comments
In my acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970, I said that the Green Revolution had won a temporary success in man's war against hunger, which if fully implemented, could provide sufficient food for humankind through the end of the 20th century. But I warned that unless the frightening power of human reproduction was curbed, the success of the Green Revolution would only be ephemeral. I now think that the world has the technology—either available or well advanced in the research pipeline—to feed on a sustainable basis a population of 10 billion people. The more pertinent question today is whether farmers and ranchers will be permitted to use it?

President Obasanjo of Nigeria, himself a farmer, previously served on the SAA Board of Directors for eight years while a private citizen. Permit me to quote him on African agricultural development, since I fully share his perspective.

"As long as farming remains, at best, marginally rewarding, young men and women will drift away from the rural areas to increase the battalions of the urban poor. The idea, therefore, that African agriculture should be based only on a half hectare holding is, to say the least, unappetizing. I want to see people encouraged. I want to see the evolution of young, emergent, commercial farmers who will be holding, not a half hectare of land, but 5 to 10 to 20 hectares of land, and for whom the city will have no big attraction."

We believe that there has been far too much "minimalist" thinking about African agricultural development in recent years. It's time that we started implementing aggressive and dynamic field programs that can help African farmers to "prosper" and not just "survive." Intensification of food production—using modern technologies on the lands best suited to this use—must be at the very heart of these efforts. This can be achieved if we work in true partnerships—farmers, extension workers and scientists; public, private and non-governmental organizations; and national and international governments.

Africa is a sleeping agricultural giant waiting to be awakened. The potential is there but you “can’t eat potential.” To realize this potential will require greater investments in agricultural research, extension, infrastructure, transport, general education, and health. While greater investments in all of these areas are necessary, improving rural transport systems may be the single-most critical component to move farmers from a subsistence way of life to a more prosperous life of small-scale commercial agriculture.

We have the knowledge to make African agriculture bloom and prosper. What we need is the political, financial, and institutional will to ensure that science and technology can be put to work in the service of the smallholder farmers and poor consumers of this vast continent. It gives us enormous satisfaction that our organization, Sasakawa-Global 2000, is able to play a small but constructive role in this great endeavor!