Realizing the Promise and Potential of African Agriculture

Africa is rich in both natural and human resources, yet nearly 200 million of its people are undernourished because of inadequate food supplies.  Comprehensive strategies are needed across the continent to harness the power of science and technology (S&T) in ways that boost agricultural productivity, profitability, and sustainability -- ultimately ensuring that all Africans have access to enough safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs.  This report addresses the question of how science and technology can be mobilized to make that promise a reality.

Africa is rich in both natural and human resources, yet nearly 200 million of its people are undernourished because of inadequate food supplies.  Comprehensive strategies are needed across the continent to harness the power of science and technology (S&T) in ways that boost agricultural productivity, profitability, and sustainability -- ultimately ensuring that all Africans have access to enough safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs.  This report addresses the question of how science and technology can be mobilized to make that promise a reality.

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  • 6. Creating and Retaining a New Generation of Agricultural Scientists

    Great strides have been made in increasing the number of universities in Africa and students enrolled in them at all levels, but universities throughout the continent are facing severe financial problems coupled with a decline in the quality of the educational experience. At the same time there has been an exodus of senior academics to nongovernment organizations (NGOs), to the private sector and to attractive international positions (Lynam and Blackie, 1994). The brain drain, especially of associate and full professors, has been especially crippling for many African universities that are trying to build MSc and PhD programs. Senior scholars are needed to set both the research direction and the intellectual tone for their departments, and they are ultimately responsible for the mentoring of postgraduate students and the overall quality of local MSc and PhD programs.

    The first generation of post-independence African agriculturalists performed yeoman service starting in the 1960s. They helped launch new universities and faculties of agriculture and tackled research on food crops and livestock for smallholders - both neglected areas of research in colonial export-oriented research stations. In 1960 at independence, roughly 10 percent of the agricultural researchers in Africa were African with the balance being expatriates. Thirty years later 90 percent were African (Beintema et al., 1998) - an impressive achievement by African universities with assistance through a generous flow of scholarships for overseas MSc and PhD training programs.

    But now the first generation of African agriculturalists has by and large retired, and their successors - what might be called the second generation of researchers and teachers - have become demoralized by poor conditions of service and the low return rate from overseas of many young academics. This chapter describes the educational challenges facing Africa, with a primary on Sub-Saharan Africa.

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