Food supply from domestic production

West African agriculture has risen to the challenge of population growth: After two decades of stagnation, agriculture took off in the middle of the 1980s. In 30 years, agricultural production has increased at a much faster rate than the population and the supply of locally-produced food increased from 1 700 to 2 400 kilocalories per person per day (Kcal/person/day). In most West African countries, dependence on food imports has not increased. This represented 20% (kcal/person/day) in 1980 and is similar today. With massive campaigns to promote the rice sector and off-season farming, rice imports grew only 3.5 kg/per person in 30 years. These achievements, which might have been even better if several countries had not experienced prolonged periods of conflict and instability, are a credit to West African farmers, agricultural producers, traders, transporters and processors. They have been able to respond to strong and steady increases in demand. In 1950, nine out of ten households were farmers. In 2010, the numbers have decreased to five out of ten. A decreasing proportion of the population has to feed the other part of the population, which is rapidly increasing. They have only been able to do this because of steady improvements in agricultural labour productivity which, after years of falling short, has been increasing since 1980 at the impressive rate of 2.6% per year. Yields have also increased, but less robustly. This is not surprising; as long as land is easily accessible, farmers prefer to increase their production by increasing the amount of land they cultivate.

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