The Wall Street Journal’s popular “Informed Reader” column has kindly spread the word about my cover story in The Wilson Quarterly’s new Winter issue. The WSJ, where I served as a senior writer for many years, deftly summarized my article:
“There is an agricultural revival taking place in sub-Saharan Africa that defies the typically dire images of life on the continent that most Westerners see, writes G. Pascal Zachary in the Wilson Quarterly.
“The rural boom has been brought about by rising global prices for farm products and low labor and land costs. Exports of vegetables, fruits and flowers, largely from eastern and southern African, exceed $2 billion a year, up from virtually zero 25 years ago. In some areas, says Mr. Zachary, food production is growing faster than the population. The agricultural surge is changing the economic fortunes of millions, even though parts of the continent still are burdened by war, corruption, disease and climate change.
“As Africaâ€™s cities have expanded, so has the demand for food production. On a smaller scale, an increasing number of city dwellers are returning to rural areas because they see better financial prospects there, often bringing new expertise with them. Mr. Zachary talks to one such reverse migrant, Ken Sakwa in Uganda, who represents a new wave of farmers who view land as a commodity and have sought to expand their acreage through leases of neighboring plots.
“To expand the commercial viability of African farmers, Mr. Zachary, a journalist who reports frequently from the region, composes a wish list of potential reforms. The recommendations include such long-heralded solutions as improving irrigation and fertilization rates on farms and reforming restrictive land-ownership policies, to a more outlandish proposal for expanding rural aviation to move crops while avoiding bad roads.
“While exalting the changes taking hold in Africa, Mr. Zacharyâ€™s narrative also underscores the difficulties so many farmers and communities face: When the journalist meets with Mr. Sakwa in Uganda again, the successful farmer confides that he, his wife and their newborn twins are all HIV positive.