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.
The many African farming systems described highlight the fact that in addressing the diverse problems of African productivity and food security, regionally mediated rather than continent-wide strategies will be needed. Since the top six systems cover 80 percent of Africa's food production, it is extremely difficult to identify one system with the best opportunity to generate impact.
In identifying systems that could potentially contribute most to increased agricultural productivity and improved food security, the Study Panel has undertaken a priority assessment of 10 major African farming systems. Two main indicators were used - an agricultural value added index and a composite underweight pre-school children index. By plotting the summation of the two indices for all 10 farming systems, four emerged as 'best bets' for productivity gains that would have the potential to deliver most benefits for the most malnourished.
More detailed analyses of the potential of these four systems is discussed in Chapter 4. The technology options likely to result in the best technical and best ecological outcomes will be described and their functioning illustrated. Increases in land productivity can in many cases be combined with increases in the productivity of labour and other factors. The latter are needed, as labour constraints are already limiting the number of cultivated hectares in many systems and input markets are underdeveloped. Labour constraints will continue to worsen because the young rural labour force in many African countries is thinning due to HIV/AIDS and other diseases, reinforced by poor nutrition combined with the magnetic power of urbanized areas.