Stakeholders discuss rollout of science agenda for agriculture


A participant contributes during of The Science Agenda session yesterday. (N. Imbabazi)

Stakeholders in the agriculture sector and from across the region are in Kigali to deliberate on ways through which national science agenda for agriculture in Africa can be rolled out.

The Science Agenda for Agriculture in Africa, also referred to as S3A or The Science Agenda, was developed by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) under the auspices of the African Union Commission and the New Economic Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) and other stakeholders in agricultural research and innovation.

The agenda provides a framework for African countries to prioritise and put science, technology and innovation at the foreground of the transformation of Africa’s agriculture sector.

According to officials, the weeklong workshop, which opened on Monday, will enable national and regional actors learn much about what African countries can do to ensure that the roll-out of the agenda domestically benefits each country.

“The Science Agenda has to be home-grown. In Rwanda, we believe that the transformation is built on home-grown solutions, and therefore domesticating this agenda will help individual countries adopt the agenda, critically responding to the needs of their people,” Mark Cyubahiro Bagabe, the director-general of Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), said at the opening.

The workshop is part of other series of national consultations expected to be held in each of an initial set of Tier One countries, which are Rwanda, Malawi, Egypt, Ghana, Ethiopia, Senegal, and South Africa.

Tier One countries are said to be models where this agenda will be first rolled out.

“The Science Agenda will also help us to tap into knowledge and skills which is what science, innovation and technology is mainly about. Through this we’ll be able to transform the agriculture sector. During these consultations, we will therefore develop the understanding and mainstreaming of what the agenda is about,” Bagabe said.

The Science Agenda was developed in line with the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme, which is Africa’s policy framework for agricultural transformation, wealth creation, food security and nutrition, economic growth and prosperity for all.

Its vision also contributes to the African Union’s Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA) and Agenda 2063.

Doubling production

Aggrey Agumya, the director in charge of corporate partnerships and communication at FARA, said the idea is to double Africa’s agricultural production by 2025 through application of science for agriculture but putting in mind individual country’s targets.

“Rwanda’s main target may not be necessarily doubling. What the consultation is about is to provide space for countries to figure out where they want to be using science, technology and innovation as key drivers,” he said.

The African population continues to grow, yet the agricultural productivity, which employs the majority of Africans, continues to stagnate, the level of investment is also very low, and most farmers are still using traditional equipment in farming activities.

This, experts said, indicates how much African countries need an agenda that critically addresses some of the biggest challenges that still limit the growth of agriculture.

Drawing lessons from established countries

While many African countries are still faced with various challenges, there are those that offer lessons.

Kenya, Ethiopia and Nigeria, among others, are leading examples in transforming agriculture. Kenya has grown to become a major exporting player of horticulture products within 10 years; Ethiopia’s floriculture has also grown to be the biggest, and Nigeria too has prioritised technology to benefit millions of farmers.

There’s strong government support and private sector investments which has significantly helped these countries apply modern techniques of farming and create innovative approaches to turn around the sector, according to experts.

The main goals of S3A are, among others, to increase domestic public and private sector spending and create an enabling environment for sustainable application of science for agriculture; build basic science capacity at national and regional levels with special attention to the youth and women.

However, to achieve this, participants highlighted that collective effort of all players including national agricultural research systems, academia, and all private and public institutions is needed to achieve the realisation of the science agenda.