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Agricultural innovations are still needed to boost food production in Africa

Agricultural innovations are still relevant in  transforming livelihoods in Africa , a stakeholder lecture on “Food and  Culture” has heard.


Using a case study of the cassava revolution in Africa,  researchers estimate that resource-poor farmers in Nigeria, alone,  traded improved cassava stems—a part that is often neglected for having  commercial value—worth more than US$1 million (about N150m) in five  years.

Professor Lateef Sanni, IITA Scientist, said that this  increase in incomes of farmers came between 2003 and 2008.

Organized by the Public Affairs Section of the United  States Consulate General, Lagos and IITA in Ibadan ; the “Food and  Culture” lecture  brought together experts in the food and agricultural  sector including a guest lecturer from Tufts University .

Stakeholders reviewed the US agricultural experience and  brainstormed on areas that Africa could tap into.

In his presentation titled: “Roots and Tubers: Food  Security Crops in Nigeria ,” Sanni said cassava was a food security crop  in Nigeria and a major provider of employment and income.

He said the crop appeals to farmers because of its  affordability, ease of cultivation, and high return on investment.

Apart from the stems, cassava roots and leaves are now  offering additional income streams to farmers.

Despite cassava’s role in the food web, Sanni said more  attention by way of support to research was needed.

More importantly,  cutting down postharvest losses through investment in processing  technologies and the creation of an appropriate policy framework were  necessary to sustain cassava’s role in ensuring food security in the  future.

Prof. William Masters of Tufts University said that the  US government was reviewing its commitment to African agriculture with  plans to increase funding for the sector and to achieve productivity  growth which IITA has stood for in the last more than four decades.

Masters, an agricultural economist, shared his thoughts  on “How Americans are rethinking what they eat and what is in their  food, how they grow, market and distribute them.”

He explained that consumers in wealthy societies no  longer need higher farm productivity for their own prosperity, but  instead are seeking foods that embody their cultural values. Giving a  scenario of killing the ‘golden goose that laid the golden eggs,’  Masters expressed fears that consumer preferences for organic, local and  traditional foods in the US might limit their support for the kind of  agricultural innovations that are needed in Africa .

According to him, the agricultural revolution in America  and Europe which sustained industrialization was a product of  technological improvement in agriculture and that campaigning against  new advances that hold the key to cutting down hunger and poverty in  Africa was synonymous to killing the golden goose that laid the golden  eggs of new crop genetics and agronomic methods.

African experts at the session agreed that taking Africa  ’s agricultural sector out of the woods would require the adoption of  new technological tools.

For Paul Ilona, IITA Senior Cassava Trials Manager,  farmers needed improved seeds, fertilizer and other farm inputs such as  pesticides to boost productivity. He said anything to the contrary was a  disservice to farmers in Africa .

Earlier, IITA’s Director-General, Dr. Peter Hartmann ,  who was represented by Dr Mbaye Yade, said the Institute was delighted  to share its knowledge and experience in the area of agriculture with  partners.

He said the fight against poverty and hunger in Africa  required collaborative efforts among the many stakeholders working for  Africa ’s development.


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