Growing one’s way out of poverty in sub-Saharan Africa: Feasible or not?

By Dr. Dave HarrisDr. Dave Harris

Dave works in Bangor Universities SNERGY department as the deputy director for CARIAD (Centre for Advanced Research in International Agricultural Development). Here he talks about his recent ventures in sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan African farm productivity is roughly estimated at about 50% less than that of European counterparts, although, Dave outlined how farm productivity is not reliable or contains any known examples and about 2/3 live on less than US $2 a day. A survey presented by Dave revealed 84% of farms in the world are less than 2 hectares in size, particularly, East African farms are very small in comparison to western African farms. African farmer’s around the country must make an income of $1.90 per person per day to beat the poverty line.

To counter-act this depressing figure Dave and his team are, to quote, ‘‘in the land use business’’ to try and convince local third world African farmers to land management.

To also aid these farmers many technological advancements have been made in this area although Dave pointed out that many of the benefits to these new technological advancements are relative to size, meaning, the larger the size of the farm the more effective these improvements are.

Upon reviewing, some of these technological improvements on Farming industry news online (, I saw some of the improvements and it is obvious that most of these improvements are designed for modern-day farmers with access to heavy machinery and the latest tools.

Dave also outlined the implications that are likely to be cause a for concern; small farms are less likely to risk small gains from new technology, investment competition, few full-time farmers working on small farms and agricultural improvements might not be the most attractive business in comparison to other ventures into business that would make more profit from other outlets, such as tourism.

My Opinion

This seminar was quite eye-opening; it is always a free reality check when we see how the less well-off people survive with what they have. It can show how much we take for granted in everyday items and luxuries we possess. I’ve got to admit that I was uninformed of the circumstances in Africa regarding farming and I think it is ignorant of people like us who live in a First world country to go about our everyday lives without staying humble.

we rise by lifting othersTo summarize Dave’s talk we ask, do we have the technology to improve the situation? The answer is yes, but we must also ask ‘do these improvements make things better?’ and unfortunately the answer to this is not much better as these improvements rely on scale as mentioned above.

Thanks for reading,



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