Currently, three-quarters of the world’s extremely poor—800 million people—live in rural areas and depend on agriculture and other rural jobs for their livelihoods. In Africa, the pervasive poverty in rural areas is often blamed on the fact that a substantial proportion of agricultural growth comes from area expansion instead of increased productivity. For instance, the area harvested in Sub-Saharan Africa between 1961 and 2001 increased by 89 percent, but yields increased by only 30 percent, whereas in Asia, the area dedicated to cereal production increased by 15 percent while yields increased by 144 percent. If poverty is to be tackled in Africa, the productivity of the agricultural sector—which employs the majority of the citizenry—must be increased. This is especially crucial at a time when food prices are surging as a result of increasing demand for food grains, animal products, and vegetable oils.
However, agricultural productivity will not increase if the capacity of farmers and other actors in the agricultural value chain remains low, preventing them from innovating. In agriculture, innovations can include new knowledge or technologies related to primaryproduction, processing, and commercialization—all of which can positively affect the productivity, competitiveness, and livelihoods of farmers and others. By putting farmers and other operators in theagriculture value chain at the centre of innovativepractices and encouraging learning through the interchange of ideas, successes, and failures, they can develop the capacity to operate efiiciently in the knowledge economy.