Eastern and Southern Africa | EXPLOREit @ ICRISAT /sites/all/themes/icrisat
Eastern and Southern Africa

399 million - The number of people living in the region

70% - Percentage that lives in rural areas

85% - The number of extremely poor in the region who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods

ESA - The area most heavily affected by the HIV epidemic


Nearly 30% of Eastern and Southern Africa is categorized as semi-arid and more than half the rural population lives in extreme poverty.  An estimated 85% of these extremely poor people depend entirely on agriculture for their livelihoods.  Over the past decade the international community has increased its investments in the region and is strengthening its commitment to establishing a science-based, market-oriented research for development agenda.

The drylands of Eastern and Southern Africa are highly complex with a greater range of ecologies, soils, and climate types. Maize is the predominant crop. While pearl millet is relatively unimportant, sorghum, pigeonpea and groundnut play a small but important role in the agricultural economies of the region. That being said, because of the predominance of maize ICRISAT crops do not collectively play as important an income generation role for the poor as they do in West and Central Africa. As in other parts of dryland Asia and Africa, climate change is considered to be a major threat and may well be responsible for on-going drought conditions across  the region.

More about Eastern and Southern Africa

  • Access to fertilizer and other crop inputs is severely limited mainly because of governance and infrastructural issues.
  • The region’s complex topography provides important opportunities to improve watershed management in the region working from the Center’s experience in Asia and other parts of Africa.
  • Export opportunities, especially for legumes, are stronger in the region than in West and Central Africa because of historical connections to markets on the Arabian Peninsula and South Asia; success, however, will require addressing disease and insect problems and seed supply issues.
  • An important element for future research will be efforts to empower poor smallholders, especially women, take advantage of legume export opportunities; key elements of this work will include a greater focus on mycotoxins control, grain quality, and maize-legume system rotations.
  • Because of agro-ecosystem diversity and climatic variability, breeding efforts will focus on developing cultivars for diverse adaptive characteristics.
  • As smallholder households stand to benefit significantly from livestock production, greater attention will be directed to alleviating perennial fodder shortages with dryland legume and cereals.