Experts urge both agricultural researches, grassroots applications

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Addis Ababa, 2 September 2014 (WIC) - A group of experts in agriculture gathered at a the research dialogue on the sidelines of the four-day African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) that opened Monday in the Ethiopian Capital, Addis Ababa, have emphasized the need for being nimble and ready to seize opportunities when research produces promising results in addressing food security across the continent.

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the African Union(AU) and 9 other partners are co-organizers of the event, which will focus on, among other issues, increasing food productivity and ending hunger; agricultural adaptation to climate change; and sustainable, inclusive agricultural growth.

It is said that, in recent years, annual economic growth in Africa has been among the strongest in the world, but the benefits have yet to reach Africa’s rural poor.

Speaking at the occasion, the CEO of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, emphasized the need to stimulate broader conversations by sharing ideas, views and insights. AGRF offers a perfect opportunity for such dialogue, bringing together nearly 1,100 leaders of governments, agribusinesses, farmer organizations and others to generate strategies in support of the African Union’s new vision for Agriculture and Food Security.

The latest research shows that more than 200 million Africans are still chronically malnourished, with 5 million – most of them children –dying of hunger every year; half of all children are stunted.

Experts supported non-traditional research partnerships in order to leverage scarce resources. The idea is to develop and connect public-private partnerships and link academicians with agro-industry.

Apart from recognizing value chains as a major priority, agricultural experts noted the importance of connecting producers with consumers through well-functioning markets. As the world continues to urbanize, the role of markets and the need for private sector involvement in supply chains continues to grow.

The President of the Canadian International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Jean Lebel, stressed the need for experts to harness the power of both science- and farmer-based knowledge to develop the right crops, tools, techniques, and expertise for smallholder farmers and their communities.

Dr. Lebel said: “There is need to be nimble, to be ready to seize opportunities when research produces promising results. We also need to recognize when expectations are not going to be met, and scale back.”

The theme of this year’s AGRF is: “Beyond the Tipping Point: a New Vision and Strategies for Inclusive and Sustainable Transformation”.

The latest estimates show that as the world approaches 2015, there is an increased sense of urgency among African Heads of State and Government to live up to the commitments they made regarding delivery on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).   

“If we are to succeed, we need to develop projects that deliver both high-quality research results and on-the-ground development outcomes,” said Dr. Lebel.

in the same vein, the AU Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, H.E. Rhoda Peace Tumuslime, called upon on all stakeholders and partners to work together in the African agricultural transformation drive.

“We are keen to enhance the capabilities of our institutions across the continent to engage in this effort and transform their scientific research findings and innovations into applicable practices for African farmers, especially smallholders,” Tumusiime said.

She added that, beyond meeting farmers’ needs through research,we also must to reach Africa’s agribusiness stakeholders and bridge gaps between research and policy making.

Research is essential in planning for an end to the risk of hunger and malnutrition for millions of people, while safeguarding the environment. To this end, IDRC has provided support for 21 large agriculture and nutrition research consortia in 20 African countries.

Indications are that these projects are generating a large volume of high quality research findings, with considerable potential for scaling up.

The research done has focused especially on such areas as underutilized and under researched food crops, aquaculture, processing technologies for dry land regions, nutrition and diets, and some highly innovative work on livestock vaccines and nanotechnology storage. (agrforum.com)