In 2008, Sub-Saharan African countries spent more than $ 1.7 Billion on Agricultural Research for Development (AR4D). Nevertheless, food insecurity here is more severe than anywhere else in the world: about 240 million people still go hungry every year. With all that money being spent, shouldn’t we be looking at a more encouraging statistic?
During the 6th Africa Agricultue Science Week (AASW6) hosted by FARA in Accra, Ghana (15-20 July), African policy makers and stakeholders underlined the need for a new science agenda to tackle the overwhelming problem of hunger on the continent. Specifically, the agenda must be one that emphasizes the application of science, technology, extension, policy and social learning to meet ever-evolving development goals.
It is possible for African countries to amass the global know-how required to improve their access to the most cutting-edge technology? The matter is not a straightforward one. Research and regulative capacities have to be built to exploit the potential in scientific and technological advances, and to adapt new technologies unique African conditions.
What’s new on the agenda?
This new agenda will encompass the breadth of scientific disciplines and promote meaningful engagement between them. Most importantly, it will emphasize the effective transfer of science and research outcomes to the end users, that is, policy makers, educators, and government extension agents, all the way down to the farmers themselves. If successful, such an agenda could unlock the potential of agriculture in Africa.
The big question yet to be addressed, however, is how do we proceed from here?
The first step will undoubtedly be investment in fundamental research to understand the processes that facilitate knowledge application and technology uptake. Next, education and wide-scale training will be necessary to enable farmers to adopt and use new knowledge and technologies efficiently. And finally, a political and institutional environment must be created that encourages innovation in both agricultural and non-agricultural sectors, hopefully boosting overall productivity and securing more investment opportunities.
Every sector has something to lose due to climate change, environmental degradation, and water and food insecurity. Following through on this new, improved agenda, however, may mean that we can really achieve the dream of Africa feeding Africa in a sustainable manner.
Blogpost by Nestor Ngouambe, a social media reporter for AASW6.
Photo: M. Jayaweera