Neglected Issue: Tell Nick Kristof to put the spotlight on African agriculture

Earlier this week, the esteemed New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof crowdsourced a question to his readers: What, he asked, are the issues most neglected by the news media that deserve more coverage in 2014? 

Here at ONE, and among the international development community in general, we’ve seen some amazing global transformations over the past couple of decades that don’t get enough space in American newspapers. From the slashing of extreme poverty in half over the past 20 years, to PEPFAR, the so-called “Medical Marshall Plan” that arguably saved more lives than any other initiative in human history, there are so many neglected stories to choose from.

If I were to pick one that deserves more attention in 2014, I would choose African agriculture. There’s a reason the African Union named 2014 the Year of African Agriculture. A new ONE report set to be released later this month finds millions could be helped out of extreme poverty if sub-Saharan African governments adopted effective agricultural policies and increased their agricultural investments to 10 percent of their national budgets (right now, it averages about 4 percent of expenditures).

In Ghana and Burkina Faso, we can get a glimpse of what’s possible. In Ghana, they’re on track to cut poverty in half and have already cut hunger rates in half by investing in agricultural improvements. In Burkina Faso, the government already spends 10 percent of its budget on agriculture and, not surprisingly, is on pace to slash the extreme poverty rate in half.

Astonishingly, the evidence suggests that investments in agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa are 11 times (!) more effective in reducing extreme poverty than anything else.

Tell Nicholas Kristof to write about African agriculture. Recommend my comment on the New York Times site.

Every night, more than 840 million people go to bed without enough to eat. Each day, more than 1.2 billion people earn less than $1.25 a day. Extreme poverty and hunger are locked in a reinforcing embrace.

To help people lift themselves out of these appalling conditions, developing countries need to invest more in agricultural policies like enacting credit reforms, increasing public investment in irrigation and farmer training programs, expanding access to fertilizer, and creating an enabling environment to increase private sector investment.

This goes beyond providing aid. It’s about catalyzing economic growth and helping millions of people earn their way out of extreme poverty and helping them live healthy and productive lives.

If you like this suggestion for Nicholas Kristof, you can recommend it by signing into your New York Times account and clicking the “recommend” button in my comment. Or leave a comment on his post supporting African agriculture. If he likes our topic, he will include it in a column about neglected issues in his next New York Times column.

Recommend my comment on Nicholas Kristof’s New York Times post here.