Knowledge for Development

ACP agricultural S&T dialogue

This dossier is intended to enable the ACP community of scientists, policy makers and other stakeholders in the agricultural and related sectors and disciplines to share their knowledge and experiences in order to enhance national and regional policy dialogue to support informed policy formulation and implementation. The lead discussion papers in this dossier, supported by material available through the links to related documents and websites, will stimulate debate.

ACP farming systems are very diverse and the scientific community must be able to provide adequate responses to meet the varied needs of small subsistence farmers who make up the majority of the ACP farming community while simultaneously addressing the needs of the medium to large-scale farming enterprises to compete on price, quality, responsiveness to changing consumer demands and reliability in supply in all markets. Therein lies the challenge as there is no one-size fits all approach that will enable researchers to respond to the needs of small scale farmers who are primarily concerned with sustainable livelihoods or medium to large-scale farms who wish to remain competitive and take advantage of any opportunities despite deteriorating environmental conditions and trade and economic restrictions. Within the last few years, the ACP region has seen a resurgence of emphasis on family farms which are being valued not only for their contribution to maintaining social order but to environmental sustainability. This dossier provides guidance and lessons learned on the need for the ACP region to apply a differentiated strategic approach for using science to enhance the performance of ACP agricultural sector.
Researchers in ACP countries are facing a growing range of challenges. They are required to respond effectively to the demands of policy makers, private sector investors and donor agencies, farmers and other stakeholders in the agri-food chain. They are being asked to deliver research outputs that will improve agricultural productivity, food quality and food safety, in order to increase their countries competitiveness in global markets, and contribute to food security, poverty alleviation and sustainable development. At the same time, researchers must be socially and ethically responsible and contribute to the advancement of science and technology. As the demands for accountability increase and the levels of funding diminish, researchers need to prioritize and strategize their responses.
Some of the most relevant briefs, notes and documents related to the pre-2007 ACP Agricultural S&T policy discussions.
Mr Othieno lives in Busia District in Kenya. He used to grow maize to feed his family of six. Every season, he could only harvest 2 bags of maize from his acre of land. This was not enough to feed his family and send his children to school. In 2007, he participated in an on-farm evaluation of new varieties of sweet potato (orange-fleshed sweet potato). He learned that he can plant and sell seedlings of these new varieties. He became a member of an innovation platform where farmers interact with extension, researchers and agribusiness discussing farmers’ challenges and the potential for improving their livelihoods. He volunteered to be trained as a seed multiplier of the promising and proven varieties of sweet potato and, became known within his village and surrounding villages as a good source of planting materials. In 2009, he earned around US$1,000 by selling his cuttings to fellow farmers within one season. In 2010, he received new cuttings of tested varieties and earned US$1,600 within the season. With his new earnings, he is able to feed his family, send his children to school, build a new house, expand his farm and has bought 3 cows. An average African farmer earns less than a dollar a day. 02/11/2011

ACP and EU policymakers want evidence that science can and will deliver: the chicken and the egg

by Daan Du Toit, Senior Science and Technology Representative to the European Union of the South African Department of Science and Technology.
Science is a critical instrument for growth and development. Such is the policy rhetoric of many ACP (Africa, Caribbean and Pacific) nations and their counterparts in the European Union (EU). The Heads of State of the African Union, for example, dedicated their 2007 Summit to the theme of science and technology (S&T) and its contribution to Africa’s development (African Union, 2007), and have subsequently (at regular intervals) endorsed efforts to implement “Africa’s Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action” (New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), 2005). Science and innovation is also at the heart of the EU’s “Europe 2020” strategy for sustainable growth (European Commission, 2010). In recent years, for example, emphasis has been given to ensuring a greater focus on research and innovation as part of the spending priorities of the EU’s structural and regional funds, instruments targeted at boosting economic growth in the EU’s less-developed regions. 01/07/2011
Millions of small farmers are reached commercially every day as they buy seeds and crop protection products, fertiliser, cell phones, machinery and tools, taking advantage of the science and research embodied in these products. The market for agricultural inputs is large, and the role of the private sector as a purveyor of technology and services is growing. It is in the nature of the private sector to bring products to the market and deliver value, including to small farmers. But the private sector goes where there is a commercial incentive. Farmers who are too poor to purchase inputs are not helped, and the technologies they need may not get developed. This is a public policy and societal challenge that cannot be solved by the public or the private sector alone. The solution requires the creative complementarities of public-private cooperation that – in addition to the farm population – must include the ‘third’ or not-for-profit sector (foundations, NGOs, civil society). This pathway can develop and deliver solutions to large numbers of small farmers. (From the proceedings of the Crawford Fund 2009 Conference on world food security.) 12/07/2012
This article is part of the Journal Development’s issue on the future of agriculture ( This article proposes African alternatives that honour farmers' rights and agricultural biodiversity and still permit sustainable food production.Andrew Mushita and Carol Thompson argue that while the ‘green revolution for Africa’ promotes private foreign ownership of genetically modified seeds and focuses on increased yields of a few crops, African alternatives honour farmers' rights and agricultural biodiversity, through innovative legislation and protocols, in order to increase sustainable food production.The authors explain how the global agricultural crises have affected the African continent. Starting with exploring the dud that are agrofuels and the profound multi-faceted market failures of agricultural corporate policy, the authors then move to examine impacts of the piracy of African biodiversity wealth. At a later point, they carry their analysis to the African alternatives “that are working on the ground”, and focus on the Farmers’ rights international principle and the African Union Model Law for the protection of rights of local communities, farmers and breeders.Pambazuka republished recently the article at Pambazuka, 24 Mar. 2011; Photo credit: Neil Palmer CIAT) 03/05/2011

Encouraging private investment in agricultural research: Myth or necessity for developing countries

by Joshua Ariga , Economist with the International Fertilizer Development Center, Alabama, USA
The focus for many developing countries is on increasing both public and private investments for improving the performance of the agricultural sector; an issue that is being pursued at national, regional and international levels. Identifying the right technologies, developing output and input markets, prioritizing agriculture in national development strategies, and private-public partnerships are important aspects for a successful research and development (R&D) and technology adoption framework. Agricultural R&D has the potential to reduce costs and/or raise output and therefore to shift the supply curve to the right. The InterAcademy Council and other public and private agencies have recognized the critical role of S&T in economic and social development and have recommended a doubling of public agricultural R&D funding by 2015. 31/08/2011

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