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.
In African schools, science education tends to be particularly weak. At both primary and secondary school levels, science is given little emphasis. Most schools lack even rudimentary libraries and science laboratories, access to computers is unheard of, and most teachers have little if any science training. As a result, only a small share of secondary school graduates that go on to universities opt for training in the sciences, and those that do are poorly prepared.
There also appears to be strong gender bias in science training. Young women are generally not encouraged to focus on science - particularly biology and agricultural science - in primary and secondary school, with the result that African female participation rates in the agricultural sciences in universities are roughly half of those in other fields (13.8 percent compared to 25.5 percent). Not surprisingly, a survey in 1998 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) of 19 universities found that only 8 percent of agricultural faculty members were women. In many European countries this figure exceeds 50 percent.