InfoBrief Issue 1

Welcome to this first ‘InfoBrief’ and the conference on ‘Increasing Agricultural Productivity and Enhancing Food Security in Africa.’

Download InfoBrief Issue 1 (PDF 745K)

The brief gives a snapshot of the sessions, discussions and other activities happening in the Africa Hall this week. We hope it will remind you of the various debates and help you track down anything – or anyone – you may have missed. We welcome your contributions, comments and ideas; look out for anyone from the editorial team - reporting, blogging, and taking pictures – or contact the conference secretariat. Continue reading

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Stronger linkages needed

Kwadwo Asenso-Okyere, Director of IFPRI's Eastern & Southern Africa Regional Office

IFPRI’S Kwadwo Asenso-Okyere says that a ‘major problem’ he has seen in Africa is weak linkages among institutions. To move forward, we need to find ways to build stronger linkages among institutions, farm organizations and policy makers.

“We would like the conference to exploit evidence- based opportunities, to learn and adapt the good examples, share challenges, experiences and best practices from other countries outside of Africa.”

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Agricultural productivity ‘the’ way forward for Africa

Monty Jones, Executive Director of FARA“I think the key challenge for Africa to increasing agricultural productivity is funded investments in agriculture.”

Monty Jones from the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) emphasizes that the kind of productivity we are talking about should embrace everything - land, water, profitability infrastructure and marketing.

To move forward, Africa must increase the productivity of its agriculture sector.
This, he argues, is not a job for ‘research alone.’

Research must interact with extension, it must interact with institutional strengthening, with infrastructure, and with policies.

Today’s opening session features a keynote address by Monty Jones on ‘science, technology, and innovation in African agriculture.’

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Africa needs integrated markets, coordinated value chains

Josué Dioné, Director, FSSD, UNECA

The post-harvest stages of food commodity value chains are essential to Africa’s agricultural productivity, argues UNECA’s Josué Dioné. They are essential for two reasons: First, to provide inputs to enable farmers to respond to demand, and second, to enable farmers to be connected to markets for their surplus products.

He also draws attention to the structure of food and agricultural markets in Africa, which he finds to be too fragmented and insufficiently integrated across regions and sub-regions. He points to the CAADP framework which is working on coordinated African food and agricultural systems and markets through the promotion of regionally-coordinate value chains of strategic commodities – like rice and maize.

Josué Dioné gives a keynote today on ‘African agriculture today: an inventory’

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The critical bottleneck is infrastructure

In my opinion, “agricultural productivity in Africa can be substantially increased, and there are technical solutions for that.” Abebe Haile-Gabriel, Director of the Rural Economy and Agriculture Division at the African Union Commission sets the tone for this conference.

He argues that “the critical bottleneck is infrastructure in Africa: not just food, many things including human beings are not moving around.”

The problem boils down to moving food around – trade – inter-regionally within Africa. If the infrastructure could be improved, we could improve food security in Africa.

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We must keep innovating

Shenggen Fan, Director General of IFPRI

“Despite progress made in Africa, many countries still face great challenges in food security and malnutrition. One of the reasons is low productivity in the continent” - Shenggen Fan, Director General of IFPRI.

According to Fan, the answer lies in innovation. “We must keep innovating to make sure that productivity will be driven by new technologies, new institutions and new engagement with partners.”

“I look forward to a very active dialogue that will truly bring new innovations to help African smallholders to innovate, to access markets and to access knowledge and information they require to improve their productivity.”

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Interview: Bart Minten on the importance of policies to food security

Bart Minten, IFPRI Senior Research Fellow

IFPRI's Bart Minten believes that policies play a very important role in stimulating agricultural productivity.

They can create right or wrong environments and incentives that influence agricultural productivity.

"We are learning over time”, explains Minten. “In many countries for instance, the State was very much involved in setting prices. Many of the same countries have now moved towards more private marketing systems, which can have a big influence on productivity and delivery of inputs to the farmers." Continue reading

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Conference Abstracts

Booklet of abstracts for the parallel paper sessions and parallel poster sessions is now available.

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Kwadwo Asenso-Okyere, Director, ESARO, IFPRI

Interview with Kwadwo Asenso-Okyere about the purpose of the conference.

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Concept Note

Although many countries have made significant progress in the last decade, poverty and malnutrition continue to be major problems in Sub-Saharan Africa. Agricultural production increased to 12.3 percent of gross domestic product in 2009.

Yet, 72.9 percent of the population live on less than US$2 per day, 27.5 percent consume inadequate calories, and 23.6 percent of children under five are underweight. Increasing agricultural productivity can increase food availability and access as well as rural incomes. Rural areas are home to 75 percent of Africa’s population, most of whom count agriculture as their major source of income. Fortunately, Africa has experienced continuous agricultural growth during the last few years. However, much of the growth has emanated from area expansion rather than increases in land productivity. In most countries, future sustainable agricultural growth will require a greater emphasis on productivity growth, as suitable area for new cultivation declines, particularly given growing concerns about deforestation and climate change.

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