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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  • 8. Strategic Recommendations

    Africa has some unique features that differ from Asia, where the Green Revolution had such a pervasive impact. Recognizing these is an essential prerequisite to the formulation of strategies and priorities in science and technology (S&T). They became clear during the Study Panel's deliberations and shaped its recommendations.

    The eleven distinct features of Africa are as follows:

    • lack of a dominant farming system on which food security largely depends,
    • predominance of rainfed agriculture,
    • heterogeneity and diversity of farming systems and the importance of livestock,
    • key roles of women in agriculture and in assuring household food security,
    • lack of functioning competitive markets,
    • dominance of weathered soils of poor inherent fertility,
    • underinvestment in agricultural research and development (R&D) and infrastructure,
    • lack of conducive economic and political enabling environments,
    • large and growing impact of human health on agriculture,
    • low and stagnant labour productivity and minimal mechanization,
    • predominance of customary land tenure.

    These delineate the options available to science and technology to influence productivity and imply that African agriculture is more likely to experience numerous 'rainbow evolutions' that differ in nature and extent among the many systems, rather than one Green Revolution as in Asia, where irrigated rice-wheat systems predominated. Hence more investment in agricultural research and development per unit of productivity gain will likely be required in Africa than was the case in Asia.

    Improving agricultural productivity and food security in Africa will involve numerous challenges. The Study Panel has referred to them throughout the report. In this chapter the recommended responses to these challenges are described under five strategic themes:

    1. Science and technology options that can make a difference,
    2. Building impact-oriented research, knowledge and development institutions,
    3. Creating and retaining a new generation of agricultural scientists,
    4. Markets and policies to make the poor income and food secure, and
    5. Engaging science and technology for the benefit of African agriculture in the near term.

    Following are the Study Panel's strategic recommendations with an elaboration of their background, rationale and implications. Table 8.1 at the end of the chapter provides a summary of the target audiences for the strategic recommendations and the time frame for initial impact. The relevant recommendations for each of the target audiences are also identified in Annex B.

     

    The Study Panel purposely refrained from prioritizing the strategic recommendations. All the recommendations encompass the essential elements of an operational agricultural S&T strategy for Africa. And they represent the best prospects for meaningful impact on agricultural productivity and food security towards 2015. The precise priorities and action plans have to be developed by local consortia for the United Nations Millennium Development Goals and must be based on untapped production opportunities on the one hand, and unmet needs in overcoming chronic and hidden hunger on the other.

     

     

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