A helping hand by the numbers
24 April 2012
Africa’s growth is increasing but they are still struggling to feed their population. Björn Holmquist from the Department of Statistics participated in the research project The Millennium Goals and the African Food Crisis, which was financed by the Swedish Research Council. The focus is on the UN Millennium Development Goal of halving world hunger by 2015.
This project engages researchers both at African universities and a number of researchers at Lund University and LUSEM. Together they examine and collect data on farming households over time.
The project has been running for 10 years in different phases. In 2011 it entered phase 3. During this phase the project group focuses on income from sources external to the farm, such as trade and services outside of the household’s food production.
Magnus Jirström is Professor of Human Geography and a member of the project management. He says the study makes it possibly to identify changes, the dynamics and interactions in the food production. Instead of general cross sections and means the researchers are determining with greater exactitude why certain regions are successful and what is needed to increase production in regions with low yields. Africa lacks data, explains Björn Holmquist, Professor of Statistics at LUSEM, who is also participating in the research project.
“There are no good longitudinal studies to perform analyses on. This project is filling important gaps in the information about which factors are important for growth in Africa”, he says.
With the help of advanced statistical methods and multi-level analyses Björn Holmquist is now sifting through a large amount of data to weed out variables that are crucial for increasing food production in Sub-Saharan countries. The variables may include customs duties on rice imports, the proximity of towns, agricultural acreage and regional precipitation.
Last year the research group published the book, African Smallholders – Food Crops, Markets and Policy with the latest results from the project. The contributions from the project will among other things lay the base for fruitful comparisons between the nine African nations that are included in the study and others, for example Asian countries, that have raised themselves out of poverty and succeeded in increasing food production.
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