Philanthropist Howard G. Buffett Calls for a “Brown Revolution” in Africa

Philanthropist and farmer Howard G. Buffett, president of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, has called on the international community to rethink its approach to agricultural development in Africa. Although he acknowledges that a variety of solutions are needed to make Africa food secure, he argues that aid agencies must devote their attention to soil conditions across the continent. In other words, he says, Africa needs a “Brown Revolution.”

Philanthropist Howard G. Buffett is making the case for soil-based solutions such as the use of cover crops and no-till techniques to enhance African food security and lift the continent out of poverty. (Photo Credit: Wall Street Journal)

He expects his ideas to meet resistance among those hoping to replicate in sub-Saharan Africa the phenomenon of the “Green Revolution,” which introduced improved seed varieties, pesticides, and fertilizer to farmers in Southeast Asia. While the Green Revolution is credited with dramatically boosting yields in the late 20th century, opponents claim that its high-tech solutions destroyed local environments and made farmers dependent on expensive inputs.

“A Green Revolution really won’t work for the majority of Africa farmers,” says Buffett – a keynote speaker at this week’s World Food Prize symposium in Des Moines, Iowa. “We need a Brown Revolution. We need to change the debate about how to help African farmers.” His foundation released a new report on food insecurity in Africa, which can be accessed here.

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