Nigeria and other African countries spend $35 billion yearly importing food, the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group has said.
The bank said all continents needed to do was to harness the available technologies with the right policies and rapidly raise agricultural productivity and incomes for farmers, and assure lower food prices for consumers.
AfdB President, Mr. Akinwumi Adesina, in a keynote speech delivered at the 2018 Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA) Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C, said farmers across the continent should be empowered with new technologies that have potential to transform agricultural production.
He said technology transfer was needed immediately and that evidence from countries like Nigeria demonstrated that technology plus strong government backing was already yielding positive results.
“Technologies to achieve Africa’s green revolution exist, but are mostly just sitting on the shelves. The challenge is lack of supportive policies to ensure that they are scaled up to reach millions of farmers,” Adesina said.
Adesina cited the case of Nigeria, where policy during his tenure as the country’s Minister of Agriculture resulted in a rice production revolution in three years.
Adesina said: “All it took was sheer political will, supported by science, technology and pragmatic policies…Just like in the case of rice, the same can be said of a myriad of technologies, including high-yielding water efficient maize, high-yielding cassava varieties, and animal and fisheries technologies.”
He said AfDB is working with the World Bank, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to mobilise $1 billion to scale up agricultural technologies across Africa under a new initiative called Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT).
It was learnt that TAAT is already taking bold steps to bring down some of the barriers preventing farmers from accessing latest seed varieties and technologies to improve their productivity.
The AfDB president said: “With the rapid pace of growth of the use of drones, automated tractors, artificial intelligence, robotics and block chains, agriculture as we know it today will change.”
He predicted that it is more likely that future farmers will be sitting in their homes with computer applications using drone to determine the size of their farms, monitor and guide the applications of farm inputs, and with driverless combine harvesters bringing in the harvest.
Adesina urged African universities to adapt their curriculum to enable technology-driven farmers and to focus on agribusiness entrepreneurship for young people, emphasising the need to rise beyond theories to application.
Through its innovative Enable Youth initiative, the AfDB has in the past two years committed close to $300 million to develop the next generation of agribusiness and commercial farmers for Africa.
Adesina stressed the bank’s resolve to change the face of agriculture in Africa to unleash new sources of wealth.
AAEA President Scott Swinton said Adesina and the AfDB exemplify the use of economics that makes a difference in people’s lives.
“If applied economics is economics that make a difference, I think that there is no better example of someone who has used that than Adesina,” Swindon said.Source: The Nation