Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Innovation, key to food security

Busani Bafana reports.

Forget the linear system of promoting technologies in agriculture; Africa needs inclusive methods that will speed up the adoption of new technologies by poor farmers, say experts.

"The linear approach has not helped Africa," says FARA executive director, Dr. Monty Jones. "Adoption of technologies is only about 10 percent but where we have implemented the innovations system approach which brings everyone together, we have seen the rate of adoption shoot up from 10 to 90 percent."

Bemoaning past linear patterns of promoting innovations and technologies as being effective, Dr. Jones said Africa had credible technologies but these had not made the desired impact due to poor implementation approaches. Africa has made a breakthrough in technologies, such as the tissue culture banana, which has out yielded the traditional banana by up to 50 percent raising farmer incomes. The New Rice for Africa (NERICA) has doubled yields of previously known varieties, while striga resistant maize has boosted grain yields in some parts of Africa. In Burkina Faso, Bt cotton is being promoted to increase income for farmers.

"One of the problems we have faced in Africa is the dissemination of these technologies either because we have not determined appropriate pathways to disseminate those technologies or we do not have the skilled manpower to do that," Jones told a press briefing on the opening day of the 5th Agriculture Science Week in Ouagadougou. "Innovation will increase productivity enabling us to get closer to the six percent agricultural production that has been predicted as the level we must attain by the year 2015."

CTA director, Michael Hailu, said the innovation approach seeks to promote existing knowledge within different stakeholders who then come together to use the knowledge and put into practise.

"The linear approach assumes that researchers will come up with their own ideas of what is needed and work on the technologies without considering what farmers need, said Dr. Hailu adding that, "The whole key is create a space so that everyone has a voice in the process of technology development and dissemination."

The six-day African Agriculture Science Week and FARA General Assembly are expected to produce action plans to develop agriculture in Africa. Low investment in research and development has been singled as a factor stifling the agricultural productivity as well as the adoption of innovation and technology. FARA research has found that Africa is investing about $2.2 billion in research and development efforts, a far cry from the $4 billion needed to increase agricultural output.

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