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Agriculture is often a major part of any countries’ economy. It not only serves as a means of feeding the nations’ people, but also may serve as an excellent export to other countries. We are all familiar with Florida Oranges, Idaho Potatoes, and even Wisconsin Cheese. These have become famous for their unique taste or perhaps just marketability, which is an important strategy of foodstuffs next to the transportation systems. For example, because ours in the U.S. are up to date, it allows us to get certain crops, such as rice from Japan in a timely, low cost manner. However, in the SADC (Southern African Development Council) it is not that easy. Throughout this paper we will take a look at why that is from past to present, define agricultural development and offer reasons why an adequate transport system is necessary.
African agricultural development history can be broken down into four periods: Pre-colonial, colonial, post-colonial and present day. There is similarities and differences between these periods that may offer some insight to how Africa grew into the situations they now face.
Agriculture at this time was classified by subsistence farming and shifting cultivation due to a low land population. All food or most was cultivated for consumption by farmers and others who lived nearby and was directly linked to nutrition. At this time transport systems were virtually unnecessary.
Agriculture during the colonial period, 1880 to mid-1960, was drastically altered and turned from being self-sufficient to on the verge of starvation. Colonization imposed the farming of cash crops along with several market and tax policies. This separated agriculture form nutrition, the backbone of African farming. The land needed to be under constant cultivation, rather than seasonal which was another way the Europeans exploited the Africans. Transport systems at this time were designed to have raw materials exported from coastal areas and import manufactured goods.
Before the arrival of the 1960’s a few countries became independent once again and rushed to become industrialized in order to keep up with the modern world. However, the economy continued to suffer because the agricultural produce sold often did not return its actual value. The “elites” were similar to the Euro rule and favored imported goods to satisfy appetites as opposed to agriculture, which became viewed as demeaning and backward. Still, the transportation needs had not been met. The roads along with the materials and to build them were completely inadequate and in some cases have done more harm than good.
Agriculture is Africa’s most important sector. Approximately 35% of GDP, 40% of exports and 75% of employment is accounted for through agriculture. However, data shows us that between 1981 and 1992 per capita agricultural production in SADC countries declined. Population has outgrown production and land use and again delayed the arrival for inadequate transport systems.
An appropriate definition for “inadequate” transport systems could be defined as: attempting to minimize the cost of inputs at the agricultural enterprise and cost of inputs at the delivery by lowering costs of physically moving inputs and outputs to maximize time utility. Road transportation is by far the most important method of transportation. It also plays a large role in not only the economy, but also social development of a region. Presently, not much has changed in the area of regional transport systems. Costs of inputs are higher due to the cost of delivery. This also makes it difficult to move perishable items out in a quick enough manner. Once a useful transport system is formed and put into action the SADC region may be able to establish a foothold and grow back into self-sufficiency.
Increasing the availability of food at the household level is the first goal in achieving food security. Once this occurs and transportation methods will have to rise. If a plan can be developed to restore the traditional transport routes of landlocked countries it would be key to the development of transport systems. Usually, the shortest route is the cheapest route and when used the mobility of food will establish food security and a decrease in the cost of exporting goods. The money saved can be reinvested into the food and infrastructure of the SADC. Roadways, railways, and bridges will need to be developed properly and kept up the first time so those costly repairs do not need to take place. Finally, the packaging and shipping of goods absolutely must be prepares whether in bulk or a containerized method.
The SADC will need full participation and cooperation from all nations involved in order to establish an efficient and most importantly effective way to get and maintain good transportation systems. As the food security increases the ripple effect will occur and the SADC will be more prepared to handle themselves as self-sufficient, nutritious, modernized nations who are building on the right road to re-establish themselves as economically sound countries due to the balance of population and agriculture.
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