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It is entirely possible to increase agricultural output in developing countries.
Many developing countries, including those in West Africa and the rest of the continent record poor agricultural output every year. This is in spite of the fact that most of these countries boast of the best natural resources suitable for agricultural production in the world.
In this article, I will outline some practical ways to increase agricultural output in developing countries. These countries will then be able to raise and stabilize the incomes of their farmersl
As soon as the steps to increase agricultural output are successful, there will be an increase in the overall Gross Domestic Output (simply, national income or wealth) of these countries.
I believe that the first step to increasing the productivity of farmers in the developing world is to identify the major factors that are making it difficult for them to produce at optimum levels.
So, what are these difficulties?
Factors that prevent an increase in agricultural output in developing countries
Here is a comprehensive list of the problems facing agriculture in West Africa and other parts of the developing world.
1. Unstable weather resulting in seasonal flooding or inadequate rainfall
2. Lack of production credit facilities. Agricultural credit is not readily available to purchase inputs when they are needed most.
3. Inadequate transport facilities and poor marketing system.
4. Lack of modern storage facilities.
5. Inadequate research and extension services.
6. Low level of technology used in agricultural production.
7. Outmoded land tenure system and land fragmentation
8. Prevalence of pests and diseases
9. Lack of meaningful agriculture pricing policies
10. Inadequate and irregular labour supply for the agricultural sector
What then are the practical ways to boost the production capacity of farmers in developing countries?
Here are the ways to increase agricultural output in less developed economies.
1. Provide adequate irrigation facilities
This will ensure that even in the event of weather failure, farmers can still have access to enough water for their crops and livestock.
Also, with irrigation facilities, farming activities can continue throughout the year. This will surely bring in higher levels of output.
2. Give farmers loans at an affordable cost and provide them with inputs at subsidized prices.
A research paper presented on the impact of credit facilities on agricultural production in Nigeria makes it clear that the only way to improve agricultural productivity is to make available more and less expensive commercial credit to farmers.
Farmers can expand the size of their farms given adequate financial resources and inputs.
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3. Provide better roads to facilitate the distribution of agricultural produce.
With an improved road network, most farming communities will become more accessible. Perishable foodstuffs, for example, will then reach the market centres more easily. This will help post-harvest losses to the barest minimum.
The benefits of the fast and easy distribution of agricultural produce are obvious:
- higher and more stable incomes for farmers
- the retention and attraction of more people to the farming sector.
- an overall increase in agricultural output
4. Give farmers the necessary tools and skills to preserve their produce.
Furthermore, in order to increase agricultural output in developing countries, there is the need reduce the current high levels of post-harvest losses.
One vital step towards reducing the huge post-harvest losses suffered by farmers across the developing world is to invest heavily in technology. In addition, these countries need to introduce other practices that will ensure effective preservation of farm produce.
A recent Ghana News Agency report revealed that some 83 per cent of rice and tomato farmers in that country lack access to storage facilities. The picture here is not an isolated one. Most farmers in the developing world simply do not have answers to the problem of rotten vegetables, tubers and cereals in unacceptably large quantities.
When improved agricultural storage facilities are accessible to farmers, they will have the motivation to remain in the agricultural sector and to produce more.
5. Access to improved farming methods
Farming in the developing world is still largely on a subsistence level.
Old, low-production methods and technologies are still being used by the majority of farmers. This is unacceptable.
These countries can reverse this worrying trend by equipping farmers with know-how in modern farming practices.
It is also important to enable them to have easy access to modern farming technology.
With this in place, the farmers would be able to compete favourably with their counterparts in the developed world.
6. Effective agricultural policies
Merely saying what needs to be done to assist farmers to produce more is not enough. Politicians and governments must act to formulate and implement farmer-friendly policies.
Here are three examples of policy areas governments in developing countries should consider in order to improve agriculture.
- There is an urgent need to reform the land tenure system. Farmers should be able to obtain large tracts of farmland to engage in serious commercial farming.
- We must encourage small-holder farmers to form producer and marketing cooperatives to promote their common interests.
- Governments must introduce tax incentives for farmers
- We must do away with unnecessary bureaucracy. This is one important way to attract both domestic and foreign investors to the agricultural sector.
7. Pest and disease control measures
Again, pests and diseases that attack crops and livestock are the number one enemy of farmers in West Africa and the rest of the developing world.
You can find here some common pests and diseases that, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, continue to negatively affect agricultural production around the globe.
Governments, international investors, non-governmental organizations as well as individual farmers must find sustainable ways and take concerted action to control pests and diseases on farms.
8. Attract more labour and entrepreneurs to the agricultural sector.
Finally, governments must adopt measures that will encourage able-bodied youth to remain or go back to farming areas and engage in serious agro-business.
One way of attracting more people to farming is to put in place the right policies to make incomes stable and high enough.
Another way is to provide modern social amenities that usually encourage young people to migrate to urban centres.
It will also yield the right results if the school curriculum in every developing country places greater emphasis on real, practical training for students who are interested in choosing farming as their future career.
As you can see, this article is interested in practical steps to make agriculture contribute more to the economies of developing countries.
I believe that there is the urgent need to move away from the usual complaining and the lip service. To increase agricultural output in developing countries, these countries should quickly move towards actions that can produce the right results for farmers.