Expert Sees Slower Population Growth

AFRICA has the potential to produce enough food for its people, says Curtis Farrar, a World Bank expert on agriculture. And while he acknowledges that a continuing high population growth rate - Africa's is the highest in the world - could offset production increases, Mr. Farrar says the growth rate is almost certain to slow. It will slow as incomes and education rise along with urbanization, and couples have fewer children.

Some experts are not so optimistic. Family planning programs in Africa have made some progress but no major gains so far.

Farrar is executive secretary of the World Bank's Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), which has several research centers in Africa.

No ``green revolution'' is likely to happen in Africa the way it did in Asia in the 1960s, Farrar says. Africa lacks the kind of single dominant crop (rice) that Asia had, he explains.

But some crops are showing major potential. Sorghum production has doubled in some parts in recent years, and has more potential. Local crops such as cow peas are also showing significant promise, he says.

Improved corn seed has tripled yields in Ghana, Zimbabwe, and Kenya, says Michael Cowlinson, a social scientist at CGIAR headquarters in Washington. Such increases have been accompanied by more effective use of fertilizers, better planting methods, and local research, he says.

But Farrar and Mr. Cowlinson point to a weak link in efforts to boost food production: In most of Africa, long-range research is inadequate. They also cite lack of focus and coordination among donor nations aiding agricultural production efforts.

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