Knowledge for Development

ICTs and nano and biotechnology can transform ACP agricultural science and innovation

Author: Advisory Committee on S&T for ACP Agricultural and Rural Development

Date: 19/05/2010

Introduction:

The Advisory Committ ee on S&T for ACP Agricultural and Rural Development (AC) is a think tank of leading ACP experts who meet regularly to deliberate on critical issues concerning ACP agriculture. In 2009, the AC had at the top of its agenda the issue of ICTs transforming agricultural science and innovation: implications for ACP agriculture. The AC further explored the key scientific disciplines that would be needed for transforming ACP agriculture, the opportunities new technologies such as ICTs and nano- and biotechnology offer for improving agricultural research and innovation and the investments needed in research infrastructure to allow ACP scientists to actually use and benefit from these technologies.


 

The AC concluded that, the major technological challenges would revolve around: (i) coping with adverse eff ects of climate change; (ii) developing and using nano- and biotechnology; (iii) establishing information and communication systems for agricultural research; (iv) developing green agricultural innovations; (v) resolving issues of competing land use and; (vi) trading in regional and global markets.
These interrelated megatrends will undoubtedly dominate the agenda of ACP agricultural science in the years to come. Is such, priority should be given to enhancing ACP scientifi c capacity in climate related studies and nano and biotechnology and genetic engineering and incorporating indigenous knowledge and skills in the search for new and green technologies for conserving natural resources; soil, water, and biodiversity.

Current low priority of agricultural development on ACP policy agendas may be cause for worry. But, the growing international consensus and, renewed support for agricultural research and the rapid spread of ICTs and nano- and biotechnology should certainly be considered as positive developments. In fact, in the future, these new technologies will unquestionably determine the agricultural science and innovation agenda in ACP countries.
ICTs represent a wide range of technology applications, from fibre optic cables and communications satellites to mobile phones and the internet, and the many applications that make integral use of these communication networks. The AC reckons that ICT applications for communication and collaborative networking will shape agricultural science and innovation policies in ACP countries, followed by online databases for storing and retrieving research information and faster internet connections. Similarly, the establishment – in Africa, Caribbean and the Pacifi c regions – of modern laboratories with state-of-the-art equipment that allow the use of nano- and biotechnology in agricultural research and the capacity to use them, will be indispensible for transforming ACP agriculture.
Driven by ICTs, nano- and biotechnology and biosciences, collaborative agricultural research and training could make an enormous contribution to improving the ACP agricultural science and innovation agenda for the next 5-10 years for enhanced sustainable agricultural productivity. ACP countries have missed out on the industrial revolution but these new technologies and the rapidly evolving technological context in which agricultural research takes place suggest that they should not be left behind again. If ACP countries wish to transform their agriculture, this time they cannot miss out on embracing opportunities to advance the science and innovation agenda.

19/05/2010