The 7th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW) and Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) General Assembly was held from June 13-16 in Kigali, Rwanda. The event, held every three years, brings together key stakeholders in African agricultural science, technology, and innovations to coordinate strategies to accelerate the region’s economic and social development.
The theme of this year’s event was “Apply Science, Impact Livelihoods” and focused on five sub-themes: 1) institutional systems and policies for making science work for African agriculture; 2) sustainable productivity growth, value chains, and profitable agribusiness; 3) human capital development and youth; 4) sustainable financing of science, technology, and innovation for African agriculture; and 5) megatrends in African agriculture.
These themes echo the goals of Africa’s Science Agenda, developed by FARA, which aims to ensure that “By 2030, Africa is food secure, a global scientific player, and the world’s breadbasket.”
The Science Agenda was established as part of the 2014 Malabo Declaration and in support of the CAADP framework, with the understanding that science and evidence-based research should drive Africa’s agricultural and economic transformation and that African scientists and policymakers should take ownership of the region’s scientific advancement. The agenda provides guidelines for:
- Identifying the broad areas of science to be developed in partnership with major regional stakeholders;
- Facilitating the transformation and expansion of national science and technology institutions;
- Building human capacity at all levels;
- Increasing funding from diversified sources to support science;
- Aligning actions and resources across stakeholders to ensure cost-effectiveness and impact;
- Facilitating effective partnerships among mandated African institutions at sub-regional/regional levels and between these actors and external partners; and
- Sharing information, technologies, information, facilities, and staff among sub-regional and regional stakeholders in pursuit of common challenges and opportunities.
The agenda highlights the need for science to be connected to the challenges and opportunities presented by Africa’s agricultural sector. As the world’s population continues to grow toward an expected 9 billion people by 2040, Africa’s untapped natural resources have the potential to make the region a global food supplier. The challenge will lie in producing safer and more nutritious food using less water and fewer chemicals and producing less waste and greenhouse gas emissions, says FARA’s Science Agenda highlight report.
Ensuring that the region can meet these goals will require research to focus on: sustainable agricultural production, improved food value chains and enhanced food safety practices, conservation of biodiversity and proper management of natural resources, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and urbanization. These research themes will require each country to establish its own strategy to increase and improve science and agricultural research, as well as to better link research, education, and agricultural advisory services.
Enhancing Africa’s scientific and research capacity will require both increased funding and favorable policy environments at the local, national, and regional levels. The report suggests that revenue can be generated from international agencies and foreign governments, as well as from Africa’s own growing economies. At the same time, legislation and regulations within the region should support biosafety measures, seed regulation and control, and intellectual property rights in order to ensure a transparent, fair environment in which to conduct scientific work. Scientific issues and language should also be better communicated in order to inform the policymaking process; this will require better coordination and cooperation between researchers and government leaders. Finally, the role of women and youths must be strengthened and protected to ensure that scientific progress in the region is inclusive.
FARA also highlights the need for enhanced regional cooperation, such as through the work of the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA), the West and Central Africa Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD), and the Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa (CCARDESA). Global institutions such as the CGIAR Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers should also be viewed as key partners.
By: Sara Gustafson, IFPRI