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.
Recommendation 4.1: Increase investments in rural infrastructure
Governments need to increase investments in infrastructure such as roads, information and communications technology, storage, post-harvest technology, and value addition, and ensure the appropriate grading standards, sanitary and phytosanitary regulations are in place and enforced. Unless this is done, neither producers nor consumers will derive full benefit of enhanced production.
Recommendation 4.2: Strengthen capacity to expand market opportunities
Regional cooperation is required to remove formal and informal barriers to trade, strengthen the contract system, establish food quality and food safety standards and increase research capacity in all these areas. Such cooperation can promote interregional trade within Africa and widen international market opportunities, which can provide a floor to commodity prices as agricultural productivity and marketable surpluses increase. There is a need to open up diversified market opportunities in concert with the private sector, including non-food commodities, to promote food self-reliance and security. To strengthen the competitive ability of African farmers, appropriate advanced market intelligence and logistics are required, along with land-use planning.
Recommendation 4.3: Institute effective intellectual property rights regimes to encourage the private sector and facilitate public-private partnerships
If the benefits of modern science and technology are to reach African smallholders it will be important to pay attention to issues of intellectual property rights (IPR). Resource-poor farmers will be excluded from the benefits of modern science, including biotechnology, if specific measures are not taken to avoid social exclusion in the dissemination of new technologies. In cases of patented technology developed by the private sector, suitable institutional devices should be developed by governments, with financial support from multilateral and bilateral donors, for purchasing such technology options and making them available to the national agricultural research systems and smallholder farmers. Models include the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF). Unless mutual trust and dialogue occur, public-private partnerships will remain elusive.
In developing policies in intellectual property rights it is important to provide a mechanism for recognizing and rewarding the contributions of African rural women and men to the conservation and enhancement of indigenous agro-biodiversity. The policy should be designed to stimulate inventions and innovations relevant to the needs of the rural poor and to foster food, nutrition and health security for all. The IPR policy should be gender sensitive, since women play a leading role in the selection and conservation of plant genetic resources.
Recommendation 4.4: Reduce barriers to increased African trade with OECD countries
Improved international market access will be a key ingredient in translating increases in African agricultural productivity into improved food security. Current trade negotiations should recognize this. OECD countries should allow developing countries more access to their markets and reduce their domestic agricultural subsidies and tariff/non-tariff barriers to trade. They should also assist developing countries to meet quality, safety and sanitary/phytosanitary standards, and help to improve their negotiation and decisionmaking abilities through collaborative research and capacity building. Africa should not replicate OECD trade and protection policies as a general countervailing response. But to catalyze African agriculture, there should be scope for such things as targeted subsidies for strategic inputs, such as biological and mineral fertilizers, making use of the successful voucher systems that were used in various programs of the International Centre for Soil Fertility and Agricultural Development (IFDC). Public policies should also incorporate safety nets to address risks and nutrition security, as well as payments to farmers for environmental services.
Recommendation 4.5 Improve data generation and analysis related to agriculture, food and nutrition security, and vulnerability
There are major constraints to the analysis of productivity trends and their determinants and the design of appropriate strategies and policies for science and technology. The constraints include the lack of quality statistics on agricultural production, food and nutrition status, and the extent of vulnerability to uncertain events on a disaggregated agroecological and subnational basis. There are also special problems related to the heterogeneous diversified production systems of Africa, and staff members of statistics offices require continuous research and training. The FAO, with WHO and UNICEF, should take the leadership in this endeavour and design strategies and scientific methodologies to ensure in future that such data are free of political influences.