African scientists say innovations key to transform subsistence farming

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Large-scale adoption of emerging agricultural technologies and innovations could be the cure to endemic challenges facing African small-holder farmers including diseases, pests and climatic stresses, scientists said on Monday.

Denis Kyetere, outgoing executive director, African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) said that transforming subsistence farming in the continent lies in greater uptake of innovations and improved market linkages.

“Access to targeted, affordable agricultural innovations is key to address challenges facing African farmers ranging from impact of climate change and poor soil fertility,” Kyetere said at a virtual briefing in Nairobi.

He said that a robust partnership between governments, industry and research bodies has facilitated the deployment of technologies and innovations in Sub-Saharan Africa in order to boost the productivity of staples like maize, millet and rice.

Kyetere said the launch of an improved cowpea variety in Nigeria slated for Tuesday will mark a key milestone in harnessing new breeding technologies to develop high-yielding crops and tackle Africa’s malnutrition crisis.

According to Kyetere, the improved cowpea which is resistant to lethal pests, is not only high yielding but will also lead to reduced use of pesticides by farmers from eight times per cropping season to two.

He said that enhanced yield for Nigerian farmers will help address the national cowpea demand deficit of about 500,000 tonnes and improve the national productivity average of 350 kg per hectare.

Kyetere said smallholder farmers in Kenya, Ethiopia and Mozambique could soon commence planting genetically engineered maize that is tolerant to drought and voracious pests like fall armyworm, subject to regulatory approval.

He said there was urgency for African governments to create a conducive policy and regulatory environment to facilitate uptake of agricultural innovations at the small-holder level, boost food security and rural incomes.

Kyetere said that ongoing efforts to transform cassava value chains in Nigeria, Zambia, Uganda and Tanzania through mechanization and agro-processing have boosted yields and income for local farmers.

Ousmane Badiane, chair of AATF Board of Trustees said that providing African smallholder farmers with affordable and user-friendly technologies and innovations is key to realize sustainable development goals related to ending extreme poverty, hunger and malnutrition.

Badiane said that targeted deployment of agricultural biotechnology has transformed the livelihoods of African smallholder farmers through access to fast maturing, nutritious and disease-resistant food crops. Enditem

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