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.
Forces of change, such as globalization, market liberalization, privatization, urbanization, HIV/AIDS, population growth, climate change and the changing proprietary nature of agricultural research redefine many of the problems to be addressed and the kinds of solutions available. It is imperative to develop and adapt national agricultural science and technology (S&T) policies within this changing environment, and these policies must also be viewed in a broad social and economic context.
While the uptake of improved technology options constitutes an important pillar for national agricultural growth, poverty reduction, food security and environmental sustainability, there are other crucial pillars that demand attention. Trade and market policies, infrastructure, education and health, access issues by the poor and environmental policy must all be considered. And these pillars also condition the context in which agricultural technology options are introduced and determine which ones are attractive to farmers. Efficient, fair and competitive markets are crucial for technology options to be sustainably adopted.
The interaction among science, technology and policy is of critical importance. The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) provides a comprehensive approach that takes these factors into account. Efforts to strengthen science, technology and policy linkages for African agriculture should be fully integrated with NEPAD. This chapter addresses these contextual issues and their implications for national policies.