Chic African Culture Africa Factbook

Future and past agriculture of Africa

Livestock, maize, cassava, cotton and coffee are Africa’s top five most important agricultural products.

The main staple foods in the average African diet are in terms of energy cereal rice, wheat, maize, millet, sorghum 46 percent, then roots and tubers such as potatoes, cassava, yams and taro 20 percent and animal products as meat, milk, eggs, cheese and fish 7 percent.

The highest consumption of millet, oil palm, okra, sorghum, teff, wheat, yams and coffee tops the list. Staple foods are eaten regularly and in such quantities as to constitute the dominant part of the diet and supply a major proportion of energy and nutrient needs.

Of more than 50,000 edible plant species in the world, only a few hundred contribute significantly to food supplies. Wild plants are essential for many rural subsistence households; at least 100 million people are thought to use them. In Ghana, for instance, the leaves of over 100 species of wild plants and the fruits of another 200 are consumed.

Reaping crops in Algeria.
Reaping crops in Algeria

About Africa’s top 5 most important Agricultural Products

Many farmers across rural Africa depends on their livestock for survival. Whether animals such as chickens, goats, pigs, and cattle are used as a primary source of household food or as income from the sale of animal by-products, they represent an important asset to many families throughout the continent. In the next 30-40 years, the demand for animal-source foods will grow rapidly in the African continent due to growth in the human population, increasing consumer purchasing power and urbanization.

Maize is widely grown throughout the world. It is an important food staple in many African countries, the oldest maize, about 7 000 years old, was found by archaeologists in Teotihuacan, a valley near Puebla in Mexico. Maize has three possible uses: as food, as feed for livestock and as raw material for industry.

Cassava is an edible root that provides an important source of carbohydrates for an estimated 500 million people in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Nearly every person in Africa eats around 176 pounds or 80 kilograms of cassava per year. Cassava is known by various names, manioc, yucca, yuca, mandioca, and tapioca. 

Cassava originated from tropical America and was first introduced into Africa in the Congo Basin by the Portuguese around 1558. Cassava is a major staple food in the developing world, providing a basic diet for over half a billion people. 

Nigeria is the world's largest producer of cassava, while Thailand is the largest exporter of dried cassava. Apart from food, cassava is very versatile and its derivatives and starch are applicable in many types of products such as foods, confectionery, sweeteners, glues, plywood, textiles, paper, biodegradable products, monosodium glutamate, and drugs. Cassava chips and pellets are used in animal feed and alcohol production.

Cotton is Benin’s most important cash crop however, cotton production in Africa has fallen in recent years. African farmer’s production in Burkina Faso Africa lost $89.5 million in revenue in five cotton growing seasons using Monsanto’s genetically modified cotton seeds. 

The cotton shirt you are wearing may be made from GMO cotton fibers. In Africa, large cotton plantations or farms are dedicated to growing cotton. Picking cotton in Africa without machinery is very hot, hard, physical work where women and often time’s children work the same hours as men. 

At harvest time, pickers are expected to pick a certain amount of cotton each day or they do not earn enough money to support their families. Most work as field hands-on cotton plantations. Today raw cotton is processed in the state's grain mills which the picker must pay for the use of the mill.

Africa particularly the Ethiopian Rift Valley is famous across the world for growing producing the best coffee in the world, primarily due to its superior growing conditions. There are two distinct processing methods for coffee, dry and wet.

The dry method is used in which the coffee beans are dried whole without pulping. The beans are spread evenly over the drying area and turned over periodically. The use of mechanical dryers is becoming increasingly popular. The beans can be placed in the dryer right after washing. 

Overheating ruins the quality of the coffee. Coffee is processed only to the parchment-coffee stage on most small Ethiopian coffee farms and plantations. The parchment coffee is then sold to a larger plantation or to a miller who mills the coffee. Large farms frequently do all their processing, including roasting. 

Coffee is frequently polished to remove all the silver skin and give the coffee a more attractive, smooth, shiny appearance. The wet method involves the removal of the pulp, fermentation of the thick, gluey material covering the parchment skin, rinsing, and then drying. 

Most countries producing mild coffee use the wet method. All exported coffee, washed and sun-dried, goes up for sale through the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange. Fair Trade coffee and many other products help with the sustainable development of Africa by offering better trading conditions and securing the rights of farmers and workers around the world.

Agriculture is at the heart of Africa
Growing crops in Uganda

Listing of major African crops and products starting with the most important.

Wheat, barley, oats, wine and table grapes, olives, citrus, fruits, livestock.

Bananas, sugarcane, coffee, sisal, corn, cotton, cassava, tobacco, vegetables, plantains, livestock, forest products, fish.

Cotton, corn, cassava, yams, beans, palm oil, peanuts, cashews, livestock.

Livestock, sorghum, corn, millet, beans, cut flowers, groundnuts.

Burkina Faso
Cotton, peanuts, shea nuts, sesame, sorghum, millet, corn, rice, livestock.

Coffee, cotton, tea, corn, beans, sorghum, sweet potatoes, bananas, cassava, beef, milk, animal hides.

Cabo Verde
Bananas, corn, beans, sweet potatoes, sugarcane, coffee, peanuts, fish.

Coffee, cocoa, cotton, rubber, bananas, oil-seed, grains, cassava, livestock, timber.

The Central African Republic
Cotton, coffee, tobacco, cassava, yams, millet, corn, bananas, timber.

Cotton, sorghum, millet, peanuts, sesame, corn, rice, potatoes, onions, cassava, livestock.

Côte d'Ivoire
Coffee, cocoa beans, bananas, palm kernels, corn, rice, cassava, sweet potatoes, sugar, cotton, rubber, timber.

The Democratic Republic of Congo
Coffee, sugar, palm oil, rubber, tea, cotton, cocoa, cassava, bananas, plantains, peanuts, corn, fruits, wood products.

Fruits, vegetables, livestock, animal hides.

Cotton, rice, corn, wheat, beans, fruits, vegetables, water buffalo, livestock.

Equatorial Guinea
Coffee, cocoa, rice, yams, cassava, bananas, palm oil, livestock, timber.

Sorghum, lentils, vegetables, corn, cotton, tobacco, sisal, livestock, fish.

Eswatini (formerly Swaziland)
Sugarcane, corn, cotton, citrus, pineapples, livestock.

Cereals, coffee, oil-seed, cotton, sugarcane, vegetables, khat, cut flowers, animal hides, livestock, fish.

Cocoa, coffee, sugar, palm oil, rubber, livestock, timber, fish.

The Gambia
Rice, millet, sorghum, peanuts, corn, sesame, cassava, palm kernels, livestock.

Cocoa, rice, cassava, peanuts, corn, Shea nuts, bananas, timber.

Rice, coffee, pineapples, mangoes, palm kernels, cocoa, cassava, bananas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, livestock, timber.

Guinea Bissau
Rice, corn, beans, cassava, cashew nuts, peanuts, palm kernels, cotton, timber, fish.

Tea, coffee, corn, wheat, sugarcane, fruit, vegetables, cut flowers, dairy products, livestock, fish, eggs.

Corn, wheat, pulses, sorghum, barley, livestock.

Rubber, coffee, cocoa, rice, cassava, palm oil, sugarcane, bananas, livestock, timber.

Wheat, barley, olives, dates, citrus, vegetables, peanuts, soybeans, livestock.

Coffee, vanilla, sugarcane, cloves, cocoa, rice, cassava, beans, bananas, peanuts, livestock.

Tobacco, sugarcane, tea, corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava, sorghum, pulses, cotton, groundnuts, macadamia nuts, coffee, livestock.

Cotton, millet, rice, corn, vegetables, peanuts, livestock.

Dates, millet, sorghum, rice, corn, livestock.

Sugarcane, tea, corn, potatoes, bananas, pulses, livestock, fish.

Barley, wheat, citrus fruits, grapes, vegetables, olives, livestock, wine.

Cotton, cashew nuts, sugarcane, tea, cassava, corn, coconuts, sisal, citrus and tropical fruits, potatoes, cut flowers, livestock.

Millet, sorghum, peanuts, wine and table grapes, livestock, fish.

Cowpeas, cotton, peanuts, millet, sorghum, cassava, rice, livestock, camels, donkeys, horses.

Cocoa, peanuts, cotton, palm oil, corn, rice, sorghum, millet, cassava, yams, rubber, livestock, timber, fish.

Republic of the Congo
Cassava, sugar, rice, corn, peanuts, vegetables, coffee, cocoa, forest products.

Coffee, tea, pyrethrum insecticide, bananas, beans, sorghum, potatoes, livestock.

Sao Tome and Principe
Cocoa, coconuts, palm kernels, coconut products, cinnamon, pepper, coffee, bananas, papayas, beans, poultry, fish.

Peanuts, millet, corn, sorghum, rice, cotton, vegetables, livestock, fish.

Coconuts, cinnamon, vanilla, sweet potatoes, cassava, coconut products, bananas, fish.

Sierra Leone
Rice, coffee, cocoa, palm kernels, palm oil, peanuts, cashews, livestock, fish.

Bananas, sorghum, corn, coconuts, rice, sugarcane, mangoes, sesame seeds, beans, livestock, fish.

South Africa
Corn, wheat, sugarcane, fruits, vegetables, livestock, wool, dairy products.

South Sudan
Sorghum, corn, rice, millet, wheat, Arabic gum, sugarcane, mangoes, papayas, bananas, sweet potatoes, sunflower seeds, cotton, sesame seeds, cassava, beans, peanuts, livestock.

Cotton, groundnuts, sorghum, millet, wheat, Arabic gum, sugarcane, cassava, mangoes, papaya, bananas, sweet potatoes, sesame seeds, animal feed, livestock.

Coffee, charcoal, sisal, tea, cotton, insecticide, cashews, tobacco, cloves, corn, wheat, cassava, sweet potatoes, bananas, fruits, vegetables, livestock, timber products.

Coffee, cocoa, cotton, yams, cassava, corn, beans, rice, millet, sorghum, livestock, fish.

Olives, olive oil, grain, tomatoes, citrus fruit, sugar beets, dates, almonds, beef, dairy products.

Coffee, tea, cotton, tobacco, cassava, sweet potatoes and potatoes, corn, millet, pulses, cut flowers, beef, goat meat, milk, poultry, fish.

Corn, sorghum, rice, peanuts, sunflower seeds, vegetables, flowers, tobacco, cotton, sugarcane, cassava, coffee, livestock, milk, eggs, animal hides.

Tobacco, corn, cotton, wheat, coffee, sugarcane, peanuts, livestock.

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