Alvaro Sobrinho, trustee and founding member of the Planet Earth Institute, has declared his support for the development of African agribusiness. In an article published online, the philanthropist and Angolan-born businessman explained how and what African agriculture can learn from Brazil, a country that has transformed itself into an agricultural power-house in only a few decades.
Central to Brazil’s success, claims Sobrinho, has been the financial support and investment of the government. In 1973, the Brazilian government created the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation. The newly established organisation set about looking for commercially viable plant varieties to stimulate Brazil’s ailing agricultural sector. The discover of a new variety of soybean, one that is better suited to tropical climate and can develop into a harvestable product in a much shorter time.
As a consequence of the discovery, Brazilian farmers have been able to grow to soy harvests a year, leading to a boom in soy production. The country is now one of the largest soy exporters in the world, selling to Europe and China, primarily to feed livestock populations. Alvaro Sobrinho believes this transformation has made the country an “agricultural power to rival the United States and Europe.”
Africa must learn form Brazil’s success, concludes Sobrinho. This means funnelling much more investment towards agricultural research institutions, in the hope that they will produce productive plant varieties, specialised machinery and other useful technologies. Innovation of this kind could transform African agriculture from subsistence farming to an industrial sector that drives development and change on the continent.
Given the dire warnings given by the African Development Bank that the population of undernourished people on the continent will rise from 240 million to 320 million by 2025, transforming African agriculture has never been more important and, at the same time, more possible.
“Brazil has shown what is possible”, says Alvaro Sobrinho, now it is time for action in Africa.