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 next generation of African scientists must have a strong and holistic science-based training within a socio-economic background that is relevant to the needs of society. The curriculum has to be flexible and market driven, incorporating aspects of sensitivity to the environment and sustainability, natural and social science, information technology and entrepreneurship; and it has to be able to produce scientists with commitment to life-long learning. They must be equipped with both problem-solving and critical thinking skills, and possess good communication and interpersonal skills.
African governments, with support from development partners, must pursue strategies that create incentives and opportunities for scientists to stay and work in their countries and to invest more in science and technology at all levels of education so as to create an attractive environment and demand for further S&T education. Incentive and reward systems should encourage innovation and entrepreneurships in the agricultural sector. Networking and partnerships may provide a viable and cost-effective mechanism for scientific capacity building.
The private sector has to contribute to agricultural research and support for higher education. Agricultural scientists need to be in harmony with political and policy initiatives at the highest levels so that they can effectively articulate and prioritize their relevance and contribution, while ensuring ethical standards through professional associations and mentoring.
It has proven difficult for African governments and donors to design prepare and implement integrated programs of higher education in Africa because of bureaucratic problems between agriculturalists and educators in the various donor headquarters, and because of competition among universities, research and extension departments, and ministries in Africa. Indeed, both donors and national governments often actively oppose real coordination. Each has idiosyncratic priorities. As a result, a comprehensive approach to building agricultural knowledge systems will not be forthcoming until African scientists, educators, farmers and extension specialists stand up and say 'Enough!' One way forward is for African agriculturalists to seize the initiative and provide leadership in crafting country-specific agricultural knowledge systems (Rukuni et al., 1998). The next step is to sell this integrated institution-building approach to their political leaders and then to donors. Finally, deans of agriculture need to become more entrepreneurial and build political support among farmers, key government ministers and donors.