Transformation of African Food Systems Urged at Agricultural Conference to Secure Nutrition and Environment

Nairobi — At the African Conference on Agricultural Technology (ACAT) in Kenya, Dr. Kenton Dashiell, Deputy Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), highlighted a series of success stories signaling the transformation of agricultural and food systems across Africa. These positive changes have been driven by a blend of scientific and technological advancements, enabling policies, strong institutional support, and greater access to finance and markets.

According to Kenya News Agency, Dr. Dashiell, during a session dedicated to farm-level resilience, advocated for the scaling of these advancements to catalyze broader transformation within the agricultural sector. He cited the current underinvestment in agriculture as a critical barrier, attributing it to a skepticism among policymakers about the sector’s economic, strategic, and political yields compared to other areas of investment.

Addressing the costly import of food — to the tune of USD 50 billion — which Africa could potentially produce domestically, Dr. Dashiell called for committed investment in agriculture, complemented by technical support and policies that facilitate sustainable expansion.

He underscored the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation Program (TAAT), an integral part of the African Development Bank’s Feed Africa Strategy, as a key initiative for advancing agricultural development. TAAT aims to grow the agricultural sector, enhance food security, and promote inclusive growth, especially among women and youth.

TAAT has successfully implemented 76 proven technologies across 31 African nations, reaching over 10 million households and significantly increasing agricultural productivity, pest and disease resistance, environmental stress tolerance, and the nutritional value of crops.

Experts at the ACAT conference advocated for the integration of agricultural biotechnology, emphasizing its potential to revolutionize African agriculture by bolstering resilience to climate change and promoting sustainable food systems — essential for achieving the Malabo Declaration, Agenda 2063, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

A technical panel also highlighted the urgency for Africa to embrace biotechnology to counter food security threats exacerbated by climate-related adversities, diseases, and pests.

The conference also paid tribute to individuals making outstanding contributions to African agriculture, such as Mr. Mahmoud Omari Masemo for promoting Bt cotton in Kenya; Dr. Eugene Terry for supporting smallholder farmers; Dr. Mohammed Ishiyaku for pioneering agricultural technologies in Nigeria; and Ms. Joyce Seke for her efforts in advancing insect-resistant cowpea in Nigeria.

The inaugural five-day ACAT conference, with over 500 attendees, is set to continue its examination of innovative technologies in agriculture tailored to the African milieu.

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