Agricultural revolutions are significant changes in agriculture that occur as a result of inventions, discoveries, or the implementation of new technologies. These revolutions alter production methods and increase output rates.
An agricultural revolution occurs when farming techniques improve dramatically in a relatively short period of time. This results in increased food production. In human history, three agricultural revolutions have occurred. The Neolithic Revolution, also known as the First Agricultural Revolution, began around 10,000 B.C. Humans evolved from hunter-gatherers to subsistence farmers and herders. The Second Agricultural Revolution, also known as the British Agricultural Revolution, began in the 18th century, roughly 300 years ago. Selective breeding of livestock and systematic crop rotation were two major changes in farming techniques. The Third Agricultural Revolution, also known as the Green Revolution, occurred in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. Plant technology advancements enabled much higher crop yields.
Other significant agricultural developments occurred during this agricultural revolution. Beginning around 6,000 B.C., humans in China used flood and fire control to create rice paddies. They domesticated water buffalos and yaks in order to consume their meat and milk, as well as to use their hair and hide to make clothing. Humans selectively bred a wild plant called teosinte to create maize or corn in Mexico. The oldest known corn cob dates back to 3,500 B.C. These same people cultivated squash, which became a staple food throughout the Americas. Humans grew potatoes in the Andes Mountains of South America at the same time.
Kofi Annan, the then-Secretary-General of the United Nations, called for a "uniquely African Green Revolution in the Twenty-First Century" in 2004, signaling the need for African countries to refocus their attention on agriculture. Following the food crises in West and East Africa, the concept of a "green" revolution based on agricultural production has gained traction. For decades, most countries' agricultural sectors have withered due to a lack of resources, making African countries net importers of food, despite agriculture employing the majority of the population. To reverse this trend, it is clear that agriculture must be reinvested in. This reinvestment presents a number of opportunities, not only for increased food security and improved livelihoods, but also for economic growth and private sector development
There is ample evidence to suggest that improved technologies and markets can significantly increase yields in Africa. When given the chance, Africa's small farmers have proven to be no less entrepreneurial or efficient than their Asian counterparts. However, realizing this potential on a large scale would necessitate a significant increase in public investment in agricultural research and rural infrastructure, as well as more supportive agricultural policies from African governments, such as collaboration with private firms to strengthen input-supply systems and food grain markets.
An African green revolution would create many productive agricultural jobs and lift many people out of poverty. Higher yields would allow many small farmers to free up land and labor for more profitable uses by securing family food supplies. It would also boost local demand for higher-value foods as well as non-farm goods and services, resulting in more productive jobs in rural areas.
The question then becomes, how can agricultural reinvestment improve livelihoods? What potential does agribusiness have for African growth? Finally, who are the best positioned to initiate and support change in this sector?
The relationship between agriculture, the private sector, and the government should be addressed. Commercial agriculture has high potential and provides significant returns on investment in Africa while also improving livelihoods. This is a discovery, while improvements have been made in recent years to revitalize African agriculture, the potential remains largely untapped. It then describes the opportunities available in this sector.
Finally, considerations should be placed on which actors should be involved in the commercialization process, with a focus on the public and private sectors. It contends that, while the government has a significant responsibility to support agriculture, the private sector should be given significant leeway to provide products and services that can successfully supplement government support while encouraging agricultural production and distribution.