University of Minnesota
African Studies Initiative

African Studies Initiative

African Studies Initiative

The African Studies Initiative (ASI) begins from the premise that the interactions among the various regions of Africa, as well as with the rest of the world, are critical to the scholarly enterprise. ASI engages methodological and theoretical issues common to scholars of literature, culture, and the social sciences globally, to explore themes such as race and ethnicity, urbanization and migration, modernity and modernism, transnationalism and globalization, representation and language.

It is with these complex processes and notions in mind—processes and notions that transcend traditional categories of area, region, and nation-state, but also traditional demarcations of academic fields and disciplines—that ASI approaches African Studies.


African Studies Initiative (ASI) Public Symposium

Exploring African Agricultural Futures

Co-sponsored by the Institute for Global Studies,
Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change,
Global Programs and Strategy Alliance, and UMN Extension Global Initiatives


November 9–10, 2017

120 Elmer L. Andersen Library

University of Minnesota


The African Studies Initiative (ASI), a University of Minnesota Title VI African Studies National Resource Center funded by the U.S. Department of Education, will convene an international public symposium on Exploring African Agricultural Futures, November 9–10, 2017, at the University of Minnesota.  All events will take place in 120 Elmer L. Andersen Library (November 9, 11:30 am–5:30 pm; November 10, 9:30 am–5:30 pm).

The Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change (ICGC), Global Programs and Strategy (GPS) Alliance, and UMN Extension Global Initiatives are co-sponsoring the symposium.  The event expands on prior discussions of food and agriculture in Africa at the University of Minnesota, among these the October 2016 ASI Campus Conversation “African Studies and Agronomy: Points of Intersection” and the August 2017 ASI-sponsored publication workshop “Contemporary Efforts to Transform African Agriculture: Actors, Institutions, and Ideas.” 

Africa faces many different agricultural futures, with some receiving more donor and institutional attention than others.  Most prominent of these in recent years has been the new Green Revolution for Africa, which is being promoted by mainstream development agencies, the Gates Foundation, African state actors, and multinational agribusiness firms.  From their various vantage points—admittedly not homogenous—these new Green Revolution advocates often see in commercial farming and the introduction of exogenous agricultural technologies (including hybrid seeds, pesticides, and inorganic fertilizers) the promise of higher crop yields that can feed growing African populations; an opportunity to substantially reduce African smallholder poverty and rural malnutrition; the possibility of countering crises such as famine and drought and their human toll in hunger and starvation; and a means of promoting economic self-sufficiency of the continent.  Simultaneously, some agroecologists, social scientists, historians, and NGO representatives harbor deep concerns about this approach.  They argue that increasing farmer dependency on external inputs, commercial credit, and markets will expose smallholders to untenable economic, agronomic, and nutritional risks while also privileging those with the greatest access to resources.  While not univocal, the latter group contends that approaches rooted in local agricultural and ecological knowledges, technologies, and systems are far more likely to improve rural food security, nutrition, and environmental sustainability for the smallholding farming systems that have historically fed the continent.

We take as points of departure the importance of enhancing the economic and nutritional well-being of African smallholder farmers; the very serious issue of environmental sustainability; and questions of gender equity.  This symposium will explore the implications, viability, and risks of diverse approaches to African agricultural futures, ideally generating productive conversations and new ideas.


We are delighted to bring into conversation, here at Minnesota, experts from the worlds of research, policy, and practice in Africa, Europe, and the United States.  Dr. Paul Richards, Emeritus Professor of Technology and Agrarian Development at Wageningen University (Netherlands) and Advisor to the Directorate of Research and Planning at Njala University (Sierra Leone), will deliver a keynote address on Friday, November 10.

Please mark your calendars, spread the word, and join us!  Faculty and other educators across the region and elsewhere, graduate and undergraduate students, staff, and community members all are warmly welcome.


See the Symposium Program for more details on speakers, sessions topics and times.


Questions: Email









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