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.
Sorghum and millet are drought-resistant crops of great importance for food security in the semi-arid tropical environments of Sub-Saharan Africa. They are generally grown in mixtures with other crops, primarily legumes. Though these cereals do respond dramatically to modern technology, farm yields are generally low, and progress has been limited.
There are suggestions that adoption of improved sorghum and millet varieties has been significant in some Southern African countries, notably Zimbabwe and Zambia. Much of the adoption in Southern Africa resulted from national and international research programs to disseminate improved varieties through drought relief programs (Rohrbach and Mutiro, 1996). In their review of constraints to sorghum and millet production in West Africa, Shetty and colleagues (1995: 249-265) show that all aspects of production need attention. Table 4.3 summarizes their findings, but does not indicate what technologies could be applied to realize the strategies. Basically, all technologies described in the next section can be utilized for this purpose, including genetic modification for developing desired variety characteristics, information and communications technology for decision support on management practices and integrated approaches to nutrient, water, pest, disease and weed management.