Later this year, on October 3, 2018, there will be an international conference at the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI), in Ghana, on Food and Nutrition Security dubbed “The march towards a hunger-free Africa” in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the University of Ghana.
The conference, according to a press release, will discuss research outcomes and development of partnerships for the inclusive transformation of agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).
Sub-Saharan countries are challenged to end hunger and malnutrition by 2030, yet the region’s agricultural productivity is very low although it has the highest population growth rate in the world.
It also has problems such as deteriorating soils, pests and diseases, environment destruction, and climate change. For many SSA countries, population pressure has resulted in land fragmentation and smaller gardens for farming households which stand at 70 per cent.
The gardens are overworked to produce food to feed large families mostly by undernourished pregnant or breastfeeding women. The soils are depleted and unproductive. More farming space is then obtained by invading forest land and wetlands, further complicating climate change challenges.
Yet incurable crop diseases are killing off major food and cash crops, not to mention extreme weather conditions like long droughts. Low food production means under-nutrition, and a huge national medical burden.
The press release further states, “Productivity of the staple crops of SSA would need to be increased by 80 per cent by 2050 to feed a burgeoning population. This would require significant investments in science and technology and strategic public-private partnerships for the development of improved, climate-smart crops with in-built resilience against biotic and abiotic stresses that meet market and industry demand.”
The international conference in Ghana at which hopefully Uganda will be represented will discuss the application of science to farming under such themes as Crop Breeding and Genomics, Tree Crops Improvement and Value Chains, Seeds and Postharvest Management Systems, Nutrition Security and Food Safety, and Modern Biotechnology for Crop Improvement.
Neglecting science and agricultural research findings by African policy makers is behaving like the ostrich which hides its head in the sand in the face of an emerging problem.