Africa / Agriculture / Brazil / Latin America

Brazilian interest in Africa: Agriculture’s final frontier?

In this weekly column, Roger Thurow, former foreign correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, describes the interest of Embrapa, the Brazilian agricultural research corporation that engineered a ‘green revolution’ in Brazil, in Africa.

‘. . . In Africa, Embrapa’s scientists are exploring soil and geological conditions that are similar to Brazil’s. . . . Embrapa has begun working with farmers in the former Portuguese colonies of Mozambique and Angola. Scientists are bringing technology and experience from the Cerrado [savanna land] to larger tracks of land in those countries that have been underused. If successful there, Embrapa plans to expand to other savanna regions on the continent.

‘In Mali, Embrapa is testing new varieties of cotton. In Senegal it is working on rice. In Ghana, it is pursuing cassava and soybean projects.

‘Embrapa’s work in Africa is complementing the ambitions of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, which was founded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, and the goals of the Obama administration’s Feed the Future initiative. All these efforts are seeking to boost the production of smallholder farmers and to strengthen the entire agriculture value chain from soil and seed research to the markets for improved harvests.

‘Because of its potential to boost food production after decades of neglect, Africa is attracting the attention of countries around the world. Much of the interest is coming from non-traditional sources of development aid, particularly countries like China, India and Saudi Arabia, which are facing their own agriculture limitations as pressure mounts on their land and water. Their interest in Africa, it is thought, is to use the continent’s soil and water to grow food for their own people, not for Africans.

‘[Jose Leite, agribusiness coordinator of Embrapa] says Brazil’s interest in Africa is not to take food out but to put Brazilian business in. . . .’

Read more at Global Food for Thought blog: Spreading the revolution: South-South cooperation at work, by Roger Thurow, 20 August 2010.

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