ASARECA participation in the 7th Africa Agriculture Science Week
“African governments need to invest more in Agricultural Science, Technology and Innovation (ASTI) to become more efficient and drive African economies.” This was a key message that resonated widely at the 7th Africa Agriculture Science Week held in Kigali, Rwanda.
Besides investment, speaker after speaker called on stakeholders to take agriculture more seriously than has been done in the past. In a keynote speech, the President of the African Development Bank, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, emphasized that there is an urgent need to change the environment in which agricultural research is implemented by raising the level of investment in agriculture. He noted that agriculture should be seen as an opportunity for wealth creation and not as a social or development sector for managing rural poverty.
He said Agriculture has a negative domino effect as it leaves hundreds of millions of Africans in poverty; lowers the savings rate and capital formation which in turn weakens consumption demands for goods and services produced in the rest of the economy, the more reason it should be treated more seriously. He spoke of turning rural areas into zones of economic prosperity by transforming the main source of livelihoods—agriculture—into a wealth-creating sector. “Underlining what Africa does with agriculture is not only important for Africa, but it will also shape the future of food in the world,” he told delegates.
ASARECA participated in the 7th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW) and FARA General Assembly (GA) from 13th to 16th June 2016. The Science week is the principal forum for all stakeholders in African agriculture Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) to reflect on their achievements and craft strategies and actions aimed at enhancing the contribution of STI towards accelerating the continent’s economic and social transformation.
The four day Forum and Exhibition was graced by the attendance of Rwanda’s Prime Minister, His Excellency Anastase Murekezi, and attracted over 1,500 participants, including Ministers of State and Policy makers, experts in Agriculture and stakeholders engaged in agricultural research and development. Deliberations at the event focused on enhancing the application of STI in African agriculture, which is pivotal to achievement of the sector’s goals, namely zero hunger, creation of wealth and jobs, increasing the resilience of agri-food systems and improvement in the management of the natural resource base. The Science Agenda for Agriculture in Africa is an African-owned continental framework formulated to achieve this objective.
The overall theme of the 7th African Agriculture Science Week was “Apply Science, Impact Livelihoods”, a discourse enriched by the following five sub-themes:
- Institutional systems and policies for making science work for African agriculture
- Sustainable productivity growth, value chains and profitable agribusinesses
- Human capital development and the Youth
- Sustainable financing of Science, Technology and Innovation for African agriculture
- Megatrends in African Agriculture.
Dr. Geraldine Mukeshimana, the Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources of Rwanda, said the role of research and innovation in agriculture was pivotal for achieving the goals and targets set out in the continent’s policy framework on agriculture. She noted that policy frameworks such as the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme; the African Development Bank’s “Africa Feed Africa” initiative and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are all geared towards food security for Africa.
Dr. Charity Kruger, the chairperson of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) said the development of agricultural commodity value chains was critical to the transformation of the agricultural sector in Africa for sustainability. She called upon the African Developmental Bank to be Africa’s lead vehicle for financing agricultural research and development for sustainability.
Dr Yemi Akinbamijo, the Executive Director of FARA, called for a change in the way Africa does business in agriculture to maximize the benefits of the industry to the continent and its people. “We have to change the way we do business. Agriculture is beyond the farm gate and selling the raw produce, which constitutes only 10% of the business in agriculture. The profit in agriculture is in the value chain”, Dr Akinbamijo said. “African countries must find a common ground where they can partner with each other and ensure that the political principals required to ensure food security on the continent are not compromised to weaken efforts to achieve goals set.”
Key Conference outputs
The conference ended with the adoption of a six point call-to-action to be implemented over the next three years to support efforts to achieve the Africa Feed Africa initiative and also impact livelihoods on the continent. The call to action was adopted by a high level team of experts in Agriculture at the Kigali round table held on the fourth day at the Camp Kigali Rwanda, the conference venue. The six points are:
- Actors in African agricultural research should join forces to facilitate increased adoption of appropriate technology and innovation by rural communities to sustainably increase their productivity by creating innovative technology platform models across Africa.
- Actors should advocate for the management of the desired agricultural food systems by identifying, prioritising and developing research innovation capacities and actions required at all levels to meet current and future food needs.
- Stakeholders should promote value chain agri-business and youth agri-preneurship to ensure institutional support for viable small and large scale enterprises to add value to agricultural produce and deliver market needs in environmentally sustainable and socially equitable ways.
- Actor should put in place the right policies and interventions to promote intra regional trade. Focus should be given to institutional, financial and technical innovations that attract the youth into all stages of the agricultural value chain.
- Relevant actors should develop data and knowledge systems to provide the public evidence-base that clearly demonstrates impact and return on agricultural related investments.
- Actors should generate appropriate indicators of agricultural science, technology and innovation for food, nutrition, security, economic, social, health and environmental benefit.
Side meetings were held to deliberate on the five sub-themes of the conference namely; Institutional systems and policies for making science work for African agriculture; sustainable productivity growth, value chains and profitable agribusinesses; human capital development and the youth; sustainable financing of STI for African agriculture and Megatrends in African Agriculture. FARA, ASARECA and sister SROS were the co-conveners of the key side event titled “Action planning for demand led capacity development for country implementation of CAADP and science agenda for Agriculture in Africa”.
Human Capacity Development side meeting
Dr. Joseph Methu of ASARECA, presented a statement titled: “ASARECA’s perspectives on capacity development and links to STISA 2024” at the AU/RUFORUM parallel side event. In the paper, he linked the objectives of ASARECA to the priority 1 of the African Union Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation for Africa 2024 (STISA -2024), which was adopted during the 23rd Ordinary Session of the AU Executive Council in June 2014. STISA Priority 1 is about eradicating hunger and achieving food security. The capacity of African countries to achieve this objective is central to a successful implementation of the CAADP agenda. He detailed the status of capacity for NARS in the ASARECA sub-region drawing from experiences and recommendations from an ASARECA study to document the capacity of NARS in the member countries to participate in regional research and development projects and contribute to the CAADP agenda (2013). The presentation also show-cased ASARECA’s capacity development initiatives in the context of coordinating and implementing sub-regional research in the NARS and development interventions. Specific examples included in the sub-region, capacity development for the NARS and universities under SCARDA, UniBRAIN, AHC-STAFF and Phd. components in the various ASARECA projects.
Presentation on Parallel session on Wheat Improvement in Africa
A parallel session on Wheat was organized by CIMMYT and attended by representatives from institutions in wheat research and development in Africa and across the globe. ASARECA was represented by Dr. Brain Isabirye and Prof. Francis Wachira. Dr. Isabirye presented a paper on lessons from ASARECA-wheat initiatives implemented in partnership with CIMMYT and the national Agricultural Research Systems of Rwanda and Burundi. The paper titled “Insights on Wheat Market and Production Potential in East Africa,” highlighted ASARECAs work on the wheat value chains in Burundi and Rwanda in an ongoing project. The main objective of the project is to characterize and document major constraints and opportunities for enhancing productivity of smallholder wheat production systems in Burundi and Rwanda. The project is linking smallholder wheat producers with input and outputs markets; testing and scaling up proven technologies adaptable to smallholder wheat production systems; strengthening the capacity of stakeholders to utilise proven improved wheat technologies; enhancing sharing of knowledge and information on sustainable and competitive smallholder wheat value chains.
Coverage by Ben Moses Ilakut
ASARECA Communication and Knowledge Hub