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Africa, India share agricultural potential

NEW?DELHI, India -- The recent India-Africa summit in New Delhi may have taken a leaf out of China's aggressive wooing of Africa. Yet India and Africa share a far older relationship and many common problems.

NEW?DELHI, India -- The recent India-Africa summit in New Delhi may have taken a leaf out of China's aggressive wooing of Africa. Yet India and Africa share a far older relationship and many common problems.

Centuries of colonialism have badly dented self-confidence in both India and Africa, a situation from which they are only just emerging.

As newly independent nations they found industry more prestigious, at the cost of neglecting agriculture. Since many in India and Africa struggle to feed themselves, spiraling food prices across the world will hurt them the most.

Yet India and Africa have the potential to become the granaries of the world. Besides abundant sunlight and fertile soil, they have regions that are favorable for the cultivation for practically every commercially important crop in the world.

In terms of productivity per acre, India scores badly for most crops. Yet even now, it is the second highest producer of fruits and vegetables.

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Africa has a variety of soils and agro-climatic zones. It's crying out for its own green revolution.

India has had its green revolution which, however, is running out of steam in terms of feeding its ever-expanding population. Indian farms badly need a makeover.

If India and African nations were to realize their joint agricultural potential, think of the effect that would have. Currently, 60 percent of Indians and 70 percent of the African population are engaged in farming.

Agriculture directly generates demand for rural labor. It delivers the most bang for the buck in terms of employment generated and gives opportunities to the poorest.

South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa enjoy the dubious reputation of hosting the majority of the world's poor. Enhancing agricultural productivity and growth in India and Africa could destroy the last big concentrations of poverty in the world.

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