Innovation in agriculture is key to feeding Africa in the future

Innovation in agriculture is key to feeding Africa in the future

A recent forum in South Africa has called on the continent to respond to the pressures of food demand and climate change.

A renewed focus is especially needed on the practice of agricultural extension in responding to an expected doubling of demand for food by 2050 across the continent.

The Durban Declaration, signed by the 700 delegates at the Third AFAAS Africa Agricultural Extension Week, highlights the need to focus on ‘scaling-up climate smart agriculture’ by supporting women, youth and new digital opportunities.

Agricultural extension is defined as using education and research to improve farming practices, especially through trained workers or advisers.

The Declaration calls on African Governments to “promote the development and up-scaling the use of ICTs” in response to the threat of climate change, as well as “encouraging African youth and women to seek exposure to the wider continent”.

Despite being seen as vital to future sustainability and livelihood, agricultural extension is currently poorly resourced and funded across the continent. At the same time, demand for its services is growing.

The Declaration goes on to state the need for greater investment and strengthening of these capacities as a way of increasing productivity.

Hope Mpata, writing for the World Bank, commented:

“We all know Africa needs a big dose of the digital revolution. Farmers are shifting to the use of ICTs to access advisory services such as mobile phones, radio, video, internet. In Africa, most of the youth are registered to use social media platforms. This is a big opportunity: Let us employ youths in the agriculture extension field to work with fellow youths, because they may have trending ideas. Let’s increase youth participation by using the platforms that they are mostly found in, social media channels such a Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp"

She added:

“Enabling the participation of young people and women will go a long way towards building an extension system that can feed the future.”

Image Credit: Peter Wendt

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