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Africa urged to use science to transform agriculture

The African Union on Monday urged the continent’s governments to embrace the use of science in order to transform its agricultural sector.

African Union (AU) Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture Rhoda Peace Tumusiime told an agricultural forum in Nairobi that all known advances in humanity are based on appropriate investment in science and technology.

“The African continent should therefore prioritize the role of science in order to improve its agricultural productivity,” Tumusiime said during the high level planning meeting on scaling agricultural Innovations in Africa.

She said the uptake of modern farming techniques will ensure that smallholder farmers, particularly women and the youth, are not left behind in the drive towards the Africa green revolution.

The AU member states declared 2014 the year of agriculture, food and nutrition and committed to end hunger in the Africa by 2025.

Tumusiime added that the AU and the continent’s regional economic blocs are presently holding consultations in order to identify the role of all stakeholders in the fight against hunger.

She said it has been demonstrated over and over again even in the history of ancient civilizations, that technology is the driver of positive economic transformation.

The AU official added that investments in agricultural technology must address identified problems that are limiting the productivity of the sector.

She also urged the continent to ensure that the level of agricultural investments is sufficient to orchestrate agricultural transformations.

“However, they should be driven by the demands of the agricultural producers in order to avoid wastage of resources,” she said.

Tumusiime said the recent upsurge in the use of mobile technology in agriculture to share market information is a step in the right direction, adding partnerships with the private sector are vital when investing in technological change.

“It will help to ensure that public investments and interventions translate to true impact and development,” she said.

Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of the Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries of Kenya Felix Koskei said African leaders have prioritized and provided the political framework to reverse a historical food and nutrition challenge that has been associated with the continent.

Koskei said the importance and potential of agriculture in Africa is enormous and promising given its diverse endowment with suitable climatic conditions that favors production of various crops.

He said that about 26 percent of the untapped arable land for agricultural production in the world is in Africa.

“Despite this huge resource, the continent is host to millions of hungry residents in constant need of food aid,” he said.

Koskei said that this underscores the need to continue harnessing and exploring sustainable production technologies to produce more food and fiber to feed the ever growing population.

He said one key constraint that negatively affects food production is the low productivity of the continent’s production systems.

“This is further compounded by poor input and market access as well as unstable food prices,” Koskei said.

Principal Secretary in the Ministry of the Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Sicily Kariuki said that the government recognizes the agriculture’s sector role in employment creation, food and nutrition security as well as poverty eradication.

“We will therefore catalyze public private sector partnerships in order to develop a strong agricultural value chain,” Kariuki said.

Kariuki said that plans are at an advanced stage to establish a fertilizer blending plant in order to reduce the cost of this input.

Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa Executive Director Yemi Akinbamijo said that the continent is facing hurdles in transforming research output into greater agricultural productivity.

Akinbamijo said the Integrated Agricultural Research for Development concept is currently being implemented to ensure that all research developed impacts the livelihoods of rural farmers.

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