Africa’s hidden drought: a desert of agriculture policy

I recently visited farmers in Limuru, a town outside of Nairobi, Kenya, where I met Angella, a 35-year-old single mother of three school-age children who lost her husband in a car accident seven years ago.

For many seasons, Angella planted seed recycled from the previous year’s crop. Her harvest was never large enough to feed her family or generate a surplus she could sell to pay for school fees or medicine. Her one-hectare farm would yield just three 100-kilo bags of maize and two bags of beans each year.

But after planting new seeds from a certified dealer—for crop varieties developed to perform well in her local growing conditions—and applying fertilizer, the turn-around was dramatic. On the same piece of land, she harvested 10 bags of maize and four bags of beans. She is now selling her surplus at a local market. Her children are in school, everyone in the family has health insurance, and she’s built a three-bedroom house. With the additional income she makes, she has invested in four cows and 15 goats.

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