Science and technology: Contributing to agricultural success in Africa

Staff at work in the Food & Nutritional Evaluation Laboratory,  BeCa-ILRI Hub Nairobi, Kenya

Staff at work in the Food & Nutritional Evaluation Laboratory, BeCa-ILRI Hub Nairobi, Kenya

This month, FARA (the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa) has hosted the 7th African Agriculture Science Week in Kigali, Rwanda. The meeting brought together a wide variety of stakeholders and partners to discuss the future of agriculture in Africa, to share challenges and to celebrate achievements.  FARA serves as the technical arm of the Africa Union Commission on agricultural science, technology and innovation and is a leading body in agricultural and scientific research in the region.

The theme of this year’s event was “Apply Science, Impact Livelihoods” and was a great opportunity to highlight those organizations which are using science and technology to improve agricultural processes and deliver impact to end users.

One of the organisations participating this year, is  the International Potato Center (known by its Spanish acronym “CIP”), a member of the CGIAR Consortium. CIP is a research and development organization with a focus on improving lives through potato, sweetpotato, Andean roots and tubers. CIP is dedicated to delivering sustainable science and technology based solutions to issues of hunger, poverty, gender equity, climate change and the preservation of our Earth’s fragile biodiversity and natural resources. CIP scientists work with smallholder farmers to improve food security, well-being, and gender equity in root and tuber farming and food systems in the developing world.

In Kenya, CIP is working with sweetpotato farmers to bring new technology and processing options along the value chain. Sweetpotato farmers in Western Kenya face many challenges in their daily life including access to new markets for their products and finding ways to add value to the crop. Through a DFID funded project called SUSTAIN (Scaling up Sweetpotato through Agriculture and Nutrition) CIP has improved access to markets for smallholder farmers, provided technology which allows for longer term storage of sweetpotato to maintain shelf life post harvest and to create new food products for urban consumers.

CIP has advocated for increased nutrition related research through a regional nutrition platform in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, CIP in partnership with the BECA-ILRI hub has set up a food and nutrition laboratory in Nairobi, Kenya equipped with the resources and with staff with expertise in food analysis and food product development. CIP researchers in the lab have skills in food science, food safety and food microbiology.

CIP’s Food and Nutritional Evaluation Laboratory at BecA is staffed by a PhD level Food Scientist with expertise in food analysis and food product development and a Research associate with a strong background in food science, food microbiology and biotechnology. This development will help strengthen the support platform concept for sweetpotato to include capacity strengthening in the postharvest and nutrition quality arena. In addition to doing complex biochemical analysis on sweetpotato fresh roots, food products derived from orangefleshed sweet potato, the Food and Nutrition Evaluation Laboratory will be engaged in capacity building, training students with the regions and partners in NARS programs on food analysis and food safety.

This meeting has demonstrated the value of improving access to science and technology to improve agricultural research for development in Africa. It is important that more agricultural organizations must deploy adequate technology, science to add value along the value chain to improve food security and nutrition in the region.

The International Potato Center (CIP) is a partner in the Biosciences for East and Central Africa (BecA) platform at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) campus in Nairobi. The BecA-ILRI Hub is a shared agricultural research and biosciences platform managed by ILRI in Nairobi, Kenya. The platform increases access to world class laboratories for African and international scientists conducting research on African agricultural challenges.

The BecA-ILRI Hub was established as part of the African Union/ New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AU/NEPAD) African Biosciences Initiative (ABI). It was developed within the framework of NEPAD’s Centers of Excellence for Science and Technology and the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Program (CAADP) and in alignment with regional priorities set by Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA).

Blogpost by Gerardine Beninka, benigera12(at), #AASW7 social reporter.
This post represents the author’s views only.
Picture courtesy CIP

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