The Challenges of Accelerating African Agriculture

kenya 12102010 194

Food: we can’t live without it. But the food Africans consume each day results from efforts of farmers all over the world. We cannot keep relying on imports to feed our people and must continue to step up agricultural production across Africa, while conserving scarce resources. We’re making progress, but there is still a long way to go.

African farmers face a big number of challenges in their struggle to maintain a sustainable livelihood. These include climate-change related issues, inadequate lands for cultivation, lack of improved seeds, fertilizers and pesticides, an inability to access capital and bank loans as well as farming skills and techniques. Their biggest challenge however is the lack of up-to-date information which can lead to the failure of their projects. African agricultural practices are characterised by lack of proper research and technologies across the value chain.

To address this gap, and to accelerate the transition toward more productive and more sustainable agriculture, the Seventh African Agriculture Science Week (#AASW7) was held in Kigali this week, organized by the Forum for Agriculture Research in Africa (FARA), The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA)), the Young Professionals for Agriculture Development (YPARD), the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) and other stakeholders.

I was selected to participate in this exceptional event as an onsite social reporter and on the first day I spoke to some of the participants their expectations about this event might address different challenges facing farmers here in Africa.

Some of the feedbacks from our conversations indicated that such events are greatly needed and can play a big role in building the Africa we all want. It is time for all of us Africans, especially youth, to come together to exchange information through research about what works in agriculture on this continent and what doesn’t. We cannot keep on counting on foreign exports to feed our population and must put much more effort into finding better policies and solutions to all the issues facing the labour force inside the agriculture value chain.

The following ideas were raised during our discussions:

  • Through strengthening agriculture research and specific technologies, remarkable changes can occur. For example, large-scale irrigation schemes can be complemented by knowledge-based precision irrigation techniques.
  • We can slow land degradation through a strong research focus on agro-forestry that would result in both environmental and economic benefits for farmers.
  • A wider range of plant species which could be cultivated, to enhance soil fertility, crop nutrition and improve resilience.
  • Livestock could be more widespread, thus contributing to human nutrition, fertilizing soils and providing economic benefits to the farmer.

Last but not least, the discussions resulted in some recommendations to other stakeholders to help support their governments on the road to African development. There has been a special emphasis on engaging the private sector, civil society, and academic institutions to keep on playing a pivotal role in supporting this kind of knowledge, by sharing events and investing in agricultural research for development. This is considered key to encouraging the application of science for the benefit of agriculture and will have a big impact on livelihoods.

Blogpost by Clet Iyamenye Nibeho, iyacleto(at)gmail.com, #AASW7 social reporter.
This post represents the author’s views only.
Picture courtesy P.Casier/CCAFS

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