African crop production trends are insufficient to guarantee food security in the sub-Saharan region by 2050 owing to persistent poverty
To meet the future food demand, supply should be increased. Crop production in Africa is projected to increase in the future. However, can the crop production trends guarantee future food security? For illustrative analyses, cereal was used on the assumption, following a recent study, that the changes in its production are representative of those for other major food crops. For 50 African countries, trends and variability in cereal production, yield, and area harvested from 1961 to 2014 as well as the ratio of production to population (RPP) were analyzed by testing the null hypothesis H0 (no trend) and H0 (natural randomness) at α = 0.05. For negative (positive) trends in production, yield, area harvested, and RPP, respectively, H0 (no trend) was rejected (p < 0.05) in 2% (63%), 0% (38%), 2% (45%) and 15%(4%) of the countries. Regardless of the trend significance, there was an increase (a decrease) in production and RPP of 94% (6%) and 29% (71%), respectively, of the countries. Cereal production, yield, and area harvested as well as RPP exhibited positive and negative anomalies in a clustered way in time. In 78%of the countries, whereas cereal production exhibited a positive trend, RPP was characterized by a decrease. The H0 (natural randomness) was rejected (p< 0.05) for negative anomalies in RPP of many 75% of the countries. In 87% of the African countries, cereal production was significantly (p < 0.05) linked to area harvested. The characterization of RPP by both an oscillatory behavior over multi-decadal time scales and a general negative trend suggests that the possible optimism in the projected increase in food production should be taken prudently. By 2050, poverty will still be at significant levels thereby strongly causing food insecurity in many of the African countries (especially from the sub-Saharan region). To ensure food security, it is recommended that yield gap closure should be supplemented with an improvement of access to markets for smallholder farmers, and promotion of income generating activities outside farming. Furthermore, disparity in initiatives of regional and national scales should be addressed, and the differences in priorities across various sub-sectors of farming in each country and Africa as a whole must be minimized.