African countries have been challenged to invest more in research and innovation to enhance food security in the continent.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi however regretted that although a lot was being done in the region, most of the efforts were not captured in the Biennial Review Reports on food insecurity due to lack of accessibility to relevant data and information on the actual performance in the sector.
He told a two day conference on innovation, research on how funding could improve food security, productivity and profitability in Africa in which at least 250 delegates were in attendance..
“Work to transform the food system must be grounded in careful monitoring and data. Kenya has prioritized the implementation of Agenda 2030 and is committed to sustainable development”, he said in a speech read on his behalf by the Deputy Director at the State department of Agriculture Phyllis Njane.
The CS noted that accessibility of data and information means better coordination and implementation of innovative digital tools for the collection of data, moving forward.
Linturi said that governments could make major strides in the sector through inclusive, innovative, collaborative, and dynamic food systems that are based on data-driven decisions to ensure access to diverse diets from climate resilient production in every region of the country.
On research, the CS mentioned that Agriculture is a business and that agricultural research must take preeminence as a business perspective and that Policy makers too must change and develop policies that will use technologies to scale up productivity.
“Science, technologies, and innovations are increasingly becoming key, with less land available to produce food and declining water levels. The focus must therefore be on how to produce more food, with less land and water, while conserving the environment at the same time”, he said.
The import of investing in agricultural research is not in question, he added but the challenge, he said is how to ensure that poor farmers benefit from the technical aspects to increase their productivity.
Lack of access to technologies which most of the time are costly, and with limited financial resources, many farmers do not take advantage of the benefits that modern technologies offer, the CS said adding that the net result is application of rudimentary farming methodologies with negligible returns.
“For Africa to be secure in food production, subsidies are inevitable in the early phases of agricultural transformations. This will ensure that the poor, especially women, and smallholders benefit from technical change”, he said
Linturi called upon governments, researchers, and the wider development community to build resilience into agricultural value chains noting that Africa has come a long way with successes in the transformation of its agriculture sector through agricultural research.
“Public policies should support farmers to take up crop and livestock insurance, as these are beyond the reach of many poor farmers. The seeds of change are everywhere across the continent and we must not abandon farmers in the face of climate change”, he said.
With the remarkable political support of the Africa Union and restated commitments of African Presidents during the Malabo Summit to give priority to agriculture, dynamism of the Forum for Agricultural such as International Development Research Centre (IDRC) commitment of the ACIAR and other agriculturally based donors, Linturi reiterated that Africa will feed itself.
‘National governments, development finance institutions and donors should significantly increase support for agricultural research. We must support agriculture – it pays!” the CS said thanking the IDRC and ACIAR, institutions that over the years have funded research with the sole aim of ensuring food security.
Linturi challenged the two institutions however to take the lead in forming closer collaboration between development partners and Africa with a single aim of ensuring food security in the World in general and in Africa through research, technology, and financial uptake.
Australian High Commissioner to Kenya ,Luke William’s said that through IDRC and ACIAR, they have worked to pool resources, expertise, and networks to catalyze research for development, particularly in Africa, through the Cultivating Africa’s Future (CultiAF) Program
Australia , he added has made tangible contributions to achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals in the region by leveraging scientific research, cross-sectoral collaboration, and an unwavering commitment to inclusive development.
Director, Climate Resilient Food Systems Division, IDRC, Santiago Alba Corral said the two day conference will provide a platform for delegates to learn, share information and build strategic partnerships with the overall objective of identifying effective interventions to reduce food loss waste on the continent as well as push for research and funding.
“Africa has the potential to not only feed itself, even with a growing population, but to become a net exporter of food rather than an importer as it is now”, he added.
Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) s Eleanor Dean said that by infesting in cutting-edge research and technology, CultiAF is developing and disseminating innovative farming practices tailored to Africa’s unique conditions
She pegged the conditions on four research themes namely increasing productivity and reducing post-harvest losses, Linking agriculture, nutrition, and human health, Gender equality and Climate change and agricultural water management.
“The time for action is now, and I urge every one of you to join hands in shaping the future of African agriculture. By embracing innovation, empowering farmers, and fostering collaboration, we can cultivate a brighter future for Africa “, Dean added
Together, she emphasized that we can create an Africa that thrives agriculturally, feeding its people, driving economic prosperity, and making a significant contribution to global food security.
The theme of the conference is “Cultivate Africa’s Future Food Systems: Enabling Resilient, Equitable and Sustainable Food Systems” and it captures the urgency with which we must unlock the vast untapped potential within our agricultural systems.
The Conference is being hosted by IDRC and ACIAR. The two organizations have sponsored a programme christened Cultivate Africa’s Future Fund (CultiAf) and funded programs in Kenya, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe aimed at improving food and nutrition security through Innovation, increasing productivity and profitability for smallholder farmers.