Saturday, March 6, 2010

Angolan Agriculture: On the Rebound

Eight years after the end of a 27 year civil war, Angola' agriculture is slowly rebounding.  This is a marked turnaround from the decimation that this sector experienced during the war, given the potential of the rich and fertile land that Angola possesses.

Before independence from Portugal in 1975, Angola had a flourishing tradition of family-based farming and was self-sufficient in all major food crops; Angola was the world's fourth largest exporter of coffee; a competitive exporter of sugarcane, bananas, palm oil and sisal; and self-sufficient in all crops but wheat. But leading up to political changes in 1975, poor global market prices and lack of investment began to severely limit the sector after independence.

The Angolan Civil War (1975-2002), the consequent deterioration of the rural economy and neglect of the farming sector dealt the devastating blow to the country’s agricultural productivity. During the civil war, most small-scale farmers reverted to subsistence farming.  Angola has been dependent on commercial imports since 1977 and was heavily dependent up to the end of the war.  By the 1990s Angola was producing less than 1 per cent of the volume of coffee it had produced in the early 1970s, while production of cotton, tobacco and sugar cane had ceased almost entirely.

The war reduced the nation from being one of the largest food exporters on the continent to being a major recipient of global food assistance. For 30 years, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) conducted massive food aid assistance programs to feed the struggling population.  Even now, as the
agriculture sector rebounds, malnutrition remains a problem. Malnutrition is alarmingly high in the remote areas among the young, with almost one third of children underweight and almost one in two children under age five stunted.

Though there is a marked return to agricultural productivity in rural areas, the advances are proving difficult and slow. Large areas remain uncultivable because of the presence of landmines. Functioning infrastructure in rural areas is limited, and there are few incentives for people to return to farming. After the war, from 2003 to 2004 only 2.9 million hectares (5%) of the available 57 million hectares of arable agricultural land was cultivated.

No comments: