By Drew Sample

2 September 2016, Nairobi—Most countries in Africa south of the Sahara have relied on increased use of land—a finite resource—to increase agricultural production and meet food demand. To enhance agricultural productivity and increase incomes in the long run, more effective and efficient agricultural research is essential. On 6 September a panel of top experts discussed the challenges facing Africa in meeting this need at the African Green Revolution Forum in Nairobi, highlighting findings from a recently released book, “Agricultural Research in Africa: Investing in Future Harvests.”

“With declining farm size, increasing urban food demand, and the uncertainty of climate change, it’s more important than ever to invest in the research that will explore how farmers can be as productive and responsive to markets as possible,” said book co-editor and World Agroforestry Centre board chair John Lynam. “Kenya and other countries in the region must redouble their investments on agricultural research in order to promote poverty reduction, food security for their citizens, and profitability for their farmers.”

Nonetheless, in Kenya, agricultural research spending has stagnated and is expected to decline as a result of contractions in government, donor contributions, and commodity taxes.

“The resulting effects on the quantity and quality of research designed to increase productivity and raise incomes could reverberate throughout the country, as agriculture contributes directly and indirectly to more than half of the country’s GDP and employs 3 in 4 Kenyans in the workforce,” said Nienke Beintema, Agricultural Science & Technology Indicators (ASTI) at IFPRI, who worked closely with the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) in collecting updated data on Kenyan agricultural research.

ASTI provides open-access data and analysis on agricultural research investment and capacity in low- and middle-income countries. In the program’s recently released book, researchers and other development specialists examined the state of agricultural R&D in the region, and how that research can affect future productivity.

“The success or failure of African agriculture can have strong effects on future food availability and prices around the world,” said Ousmane Badiane, Director for Africa at IFPRI. “ASTI data shows what countries are doing right—and what changes still need to be made in order to achieve food security.”

The book identifies three fundamental steps that must be taken to improve agricultural productivity in Africa south of the Sahara:

  • Increase investment in agricultural R&D
  • Develop rural innovation capacity to motivate adoption of new technologies and increase farm productivity
  • Correct current limitations and inefficiencies in agricultural R&D financing, human resources organization and management, and system-level structuring

Panelists will examine these recommendations and explore opportunities to increase R&D investments and food security.

A factsheet on agricultural R&D investment and capacity trends in Kenya will be available at the panel and more African country factsheets will be released on the ASTI website.

Photo: DFAT/Flickr. CC BY 2.0