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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  • Institutional Issues

    Markets

    • Prices for outputs of smallholders are too low and those of inputs too high, such that their ability to become more market-oriented is severely constrained.
    • Paucity of access by smallholders to market, technology and other information means missed opportunities. There is need to capitalize on the unique opportunity provided by information and communications technology to provide such access.

    National agricultural research systems and subregional organizations

    • There is inadequate intersectoral strategic planning and priority setting for agricultural research and development (R&D) on both a national and regional basis.
    • At best there are weak linkages between national agricultural research institutes and the universities, and often they are non-existent; this represents a failure to exploit synergies when there are acknowledged human and financial constraints to effective agricultural research and development in the national agricultural research systems (NARS).
    • Collaboration among the NARS, subregional organizations, international agricultural research centres and the advanced research institutes needs to improve significantly in order to fully exploit synergies.
    • There have been excessive and continuous reforms and restructuring of nars, with different approaches being suggested by different donors. Decentralization/devolution and increased stakeholder participation offer many attractions but also pitfalls.

    Farmers

    • There are inadequate numbers of effective smallholder farmer organizations to ensure their full participation as key stakeholders in national, regional, continental and international agricultural R&D priority setting.

    Governments

    • The quality and extent of science education at primary, secondary and tertiary levels is inadequate, which limits capacity building. A major boost in the priority accorded to science education at all three levels is required.
    • There are weak or non-existent links between research and extension. There is a rejection of the linear model of the research-extension-farmer linkage and an expressed need for a fresh approach.
    • Customary and communal land tenure systems are often poorly developed and as a result are constraining investments in agriculture by smallholders, especially in some countries of Southern Africa.

    Private sector

    • There are a limited public-private partnerships in agricultural research and development, which could be helped by investing in basic communications and transport infrastructure, as well as cultivating a climate of trust between the two sectors that is currently lacking.
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