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.
A final comment should be made on one of the principal underlying causes of inadequate funding to African universities, in particular from government budgets. Many observers argue that poor funding for agricultural education is directly linked to a lack of political savvy in most universities and faculties of agriculture. The faculties of agriculture remain on the fringe of the subregional research organizations - Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA), Le Conseil Ouest et Centre Africain pour la Recherche et le Developpement Agicoles (CORAF) and Southern African Centre for Cooperation in Agricultural Research (SACCAR). Also, most faculties of agriculture do not hold annual meetings to display their research findings to the Ministries of Agriculture, Higher Education and Finance, and the donor community. By contrast, the agricultural research lobby is skilled at courting and generating donor support. Without question, the cgiar members, along with International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR), Special Program for African Agricultural Research (SPAAR), FARA and subregional organizations are far better advocates than national agricultural research system for investment in research (Eicher and Rukuni, 2003).
What can universities do to emulate the agricultural research lobby? The World Bank's preparation of Multi-Country Agricultural Productivity Program (MAPP) for Africa presents a window of opportunity (World Bank, 2003). The Bank has developed MAPP and plans to mobilize us$1.7 billion for agricultural research and extension in Africa over the coming five years. But the MAPP concept paper does not at present include funds to strengthen agricultural higher education in Africa. NEPAD should encourage the World Bank to get higher agricultural education included in the MAPP initiative.