Africa’s agriculture needs technological transformation – Scientists

Africa’s agriculture needs technological transformation – Scientists
Source: Ghana| Myjoyonline | Joseph Opoku Gakpo | Joy News
Date: 29-09-2017 Time: 01:09:29:pm

Scientists are calling for technological transformation in how Africans undertake agricultural production to help improve food security on the continent.

They warn failure to do this will further endanger the continent’s ability to feed itself and stall development. The scientists blame the lack of speedy progress in the Agric sector over the years on the unwillingness of stakeholders to embrace fresh innovations, which they say must change.  

“There is tacit evidence that African governments and farmers are not committed to use of science in agriculture,” claimed Dr. Cyprian Ebong, Executive Director of the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA).

He was speaking at a high level conference on application of science, technology and innovation in harnessing African agricultural transformation at the Speke Resort at Munyonyo in Uganda.

The conference which is organized by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation of Uganda and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) is under the theme: “Integrating the path in Africa’s agricultural transformation.”

About 100 scientists, civil society representatives and government officials from across the continent are meeting at the conference to discuss how technology can be applied to help transform agriculture on the continent.

Africa spends more than $35 billion importing food every year, although the continent has the capacity to produce a lot of the imported foods.

This is despite more than 70 percent of the workforce on the continent being engaged in agricultural production for their livelihoods. Estimates are that more than 200 million of the continent’s 1.2 billion population still live in hunger or are malnourished.

Joy news’ Joseph Opoku Gakpo who is participating in the conference reports the scientists are worried about the increasing use of chemicals to control pests on the continent.

They are also concerned about the expansion of agricultural fields in Africa which is contributing to environmental degradation, as more forests are cleared to make way for farms.

Another problem they are concerned about is the high rate of post-harvest losses which causes inputs invested in the production of food to go waste across the continent. They say adoption of technological innovations can help fix these problems.

Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye, Uganda’s Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation told the conference, “The growing food insecurity due to the underperforming agricultural sector and poor policies in Africa are further complicated by the impacts of climate change and the emergence of new crop diseases like the Fall Armyworm.

"These challenges definitely require the application of science and technology to mitigate the impacts.” “Afric, therefore, needs to mainstream the utilization of science, technology and innovations to transform agriculture,” he added.

Dr. Rose Maxwell Gidado who is Coordinator of the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Nigeria also expressed worry about the negative impact global warming is having on agricultural production on the continent.

“Climate change exacerbates pests and disease outbreak… It is our responsibility to deliver Africa out of starvation, hunger and poverty. Encourage, invest in and adopt science,” she told the conference.”

Dr. Denis Kyetere who is Executive Director of AATF noted: “Advances in agricultural technologies and biosciences, in general, are immense, thanks to the convergence of crop science, biology and chemistry engineering and digital technology. To fully take advantage of the new exciting developments in agriculture, changes need to happen on the policy front.”

Former Deputy Minister for Food and Agriculture in Ghana Dr. Ahmed Alhassan Yakubu advocated increased investments in new technology by government, farmers and other stakeholders in the agric sector. 

Sarah Davidson Evanega, Director of the Alliance for Science told the conference: “We have to ensure that this technology does not by pass the poor. It’s a story of social justice.”