Accra, June 15, GNA – The Seventh Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW) conference has opened in the Rwandan capital, Kigali aimed at facilitating partnership and networking among actors in science, technology and innovation (STI) to improve agriculture.
The four-day conference is also to build consensus on key issues concerning STI for African agriculture.
A statement issued in Accra and copied to the Ghana News Agency on Tuesday says the AASW event, which is the General Assembly of the Forum of Agriculture Research in Africa (FARA), would discuss how research could be used to improve agriculture on the continent.
It said the conference, on the theme: “Apply Science, Impact Livelihoods,” would focus on the operationalisation of the science agenda for agriculture in Africa at the country level.
The statement mentioned the contemporary evolutions and re-mapping of a broad agenda for repositioning STI for agriculture over the next three years and beyond as another area of concern for the conference.
Dr Yemi Akinbamijo, the Executive Director of FARA, called on African governments to increase support for research in agriculture to enhance production when he addressed journalists ahead of the conference.
He said support for research in agriculture had become critical to ensure the integration of STI in agro practices to achieve the sector’s goal of zero hunger, creation of wealth and jobs, increasing the resilience of agri-food systems and improvement in the management of the natural resource base.
Dr Akinbamijo said: “Research is critical in agricultural activities because it will inform how science, technology and innovation can be employed to improve agriculture on the continent, ” adding that “agricultural production in Africa is low because majority of the farmers depend on the old traditional systems instead of mechanized farming and use of irrigation systems.”
He said Africa was the lowest on the list of continents that had integrated science and technology in agriculture and it was incumbent on governments to support efforts that would develop holistic agricultural policies to encompass science and technology.
“It is for this reason that the conference will focus on five sub-themes namely; Institutional Systems and Policies for making Science Work for African Agriculture; Sustainable Productivity Growth, Value Chains and Profitable Agri-businesses, Sustainable Financing of Science, Technology and Innovation for African Agriculture; and Megatrends in African Agriculture and Human Capital Development and the Youth,” he said.
Dr Akinbamijo said FARA had established the Science Agenda for Agriculture in Africa to articulate the science, technology, extension, innovations, policy and social learning that Africa needs to apply to meet its agricultural and overall development goals.
The statement quoted Dr Emmanuel Tambi, the Policy Specialist and Advisor at FARA, as saying: “It is extremely difficult to convince the youth of Africa to venture into agriculture due to lack of access to credit facilities.”
He, therefore, called on African governments to introduce policies that would facilitate access to credit to attract the youth into agriculture.
“When you try to convince them, they ask you where do I get the money for the seed, fertilizer and even land for farming.
“The unpredictable outcomes of investments in agriculture due to the seasonal nature of most crop and non-availability of ready market for some agriculture products act as a disincentive to prospective youth farmers,” he said.
Dr Tambi said through FARA’s subsidiary; the African Agriculture Incubation Network, the skills of some identified youth were being developed and the enabling environment would be provided to encourage them to take to agriculture as a profession.
FARA is the apex continental organisation responsible for coordinating and advocating agricultural research for development and also serves as the technical arm of the Africa Union Commission on matters concerning agriculture science, technology and innovation.
AASW is organised every three years. The Sixth AASW and FARA was held in Accra, Ghana in July 2013 where stakeholders reflected on their achievements and crafted strategies and actions to enhance the contribution of agriculture STI towards accelerating the continent’s economic and social transformation.