Africa: About the Region

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Tanzania: Agriculture accounts for half of the national income and 27% of Tanzania’s GDP; agriculture GDP has grown an average of 3.3% per year. The country enjoys various climates and growing conditions, and the majority of agriculture is rainfed. Due to its large share of small shareholder farmers, 90% of the land is cultivated by hand or by oxen. Several initiatives are underway to provide more irrigation, which could allow Tanzania to increase its productivity dramatically. Its major crops are coffee, cotton, tea, tobacco, cloves, sisal, cashew nuts, maize, livestock, sugar cane, paddy, wheat, pyrethrum. Its trade exports, which totaled $2.74 billion in 2009, are dominated by coffee, cotton, tea, cashews, tobacco, cut flowers, seaweed, cloves, and horticulture products, as well as minerals, fisheries and manufactured goods.

Malawi: A landlocked, densely populated country, Malawi is the exception to food security in East Africa. Its economy is heavily dependent on agriculture, with tobacco, tea, and sugar as its most important export crops. Traditionally, Malawi has been self-sufficient in its staple food, maize, and during the 1980s exported substantial quantities to its drought-stricken neighbors. Agriculture represents 36% of the GDP and about 80% of all exports. Almost 90% of the population engages in subsistence farming. Smallholder farmers produce a variety of crops, including maize, beans, rice, cassava, tobacco, and groundnuts (peanuts). The agricultural sector contributes about 63.7% of total income for the rural population, 65% of manufacturing sector’s raw materials, and approximately 87% of total employment.

Ethiopia: About 80% of the country’s exports come from agriculture commodities with about 45% of its GDP coming from its major products, including coffee, cereals, pulses, oilseeds, hides and skins. About 17% of its land is cultivated, and like the rest of the region, the intensification of these lands will be crucial for the further development of the country’s agriculture.

About a decade ago, approximately 65% of Ethiopia’s total exports came from the coffee trade. That number is now about 35%, largely due to declining coffee prices around the world. Despite the country’s reliance on rain and susceptibility to drought, the potential exists for self-sufficiency in grains and for export development in livestock, flowers, grains, oilseeds, sugar, fruits and vegetables.

Uganda: The country’s main cash crops include coffee, tea, cotton, tobacco, sugar cane, cut flowers and vanilla. Its major food crops include bananas, corn, cassava, potatoes, millet and pulses. Uganda is known for its fertile land and favorable soil conditions, and major investment is underway to make agriculture technologies more accessible to farmers. About 80% of the workforce is employed by agriculture enterprise, and Uganda has been in the process of accelerating investment in its traditional cash crops, including coffee, cotton, tea and tobacco, as well as promoting its nontraditional agriculture exports, notably maize, beans, groundnuts, soybeans, sesame seeds and fruits and vegetables.

Rwanda: Although it’s one of the fastest reforming countries on the planet, Rwanda’s reliance on agriculture remains unchanged. Up to 90% of the workforce relies on agriculture for income in some way, and agriculture products constitute 36% of the country’s GDP. Small shareholder farmers cultivate an average of 0.5 hectares in this small, landlocked and crowded country, and increasing crop intensification is a linchpin for lifting many of its citizens out of subsistence poverty. In the past two years, farmers who report using modern seeds has risen from 3% to 55%, and crop protection inputs have seen a similar rise in use. The country’s main crops are coffee, tea, pyrethrum (chrysanthemums), bananas, beans, sorghum, potatoes, livestock.

Burundi: The economy of Burundi is based predominantly on agriculture, accounting for 45% of GDP in 2009. Agriculture supports more than 90% of the labor force, the majority of whom are subsistence farmers. Although Burundi is potentially self-sufficient in food production, its recent civil war, overpopulation, and soil erosion have contributed to the contraction of the subsistence economy by 30% in recent years.

The main cash crop is coffee, which accounted for 55.6% of exports in 2009. This dependence on coffee has increased Burundi’s vulnerability to fluctuations in seasonal yields and international coffee prices. Coffee processing is the largest state-owned enterprise in terms of income, and the government is courting private investors to privatize the sector. Other principal exports include tea and raw cotton. About 35% of the country is arable land, and it efficiently grows sorghum, sweet potatoes, bananas and manioc in addition to its key crops of coffee, cotton, tea and corn.

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