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Adoption of technologies will boost agricultural production in Africa

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Digital Agriculture In Africa
Agriculture In Africa

African countries should promote the adoption of new agricultural technologies in order to boost food production, scientists said Tuesday.

Canisius Kanangire, executive director of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), said that farmers and food production systems in the continent are currently facing numerous challenges.

“There is a need for African countries to adopt biotechnology, genetic modification and gene editing technologies to increase food production,” said Kanangire at a media briefing in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital.

Kanangire said that South Africa has adopted genetically modified cotton, maize and soybeans while Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Eswatini, and Malawi have also adopted or conducted trials on cotton, cowpea, maize, and brown streak virus-resistant cassava.

He observed that farmers in the continent are facing climate-induced effects on water resources, insect pest pressure, and increased disease burden across crops that call for the adoption of modern technologies that have the capacity to introduce pest-resistant seeds.

Kanangire called for the enactment of policy environments that could enable actors to correctly identify the benefits and build effective partnerships to develop and place on the market these technologies with a great measure of safety and efficacy.

Martin Mwirigi, institute director of the Biotechnology Research Institute at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) said that Kenya has approved 40 genetically modified events, 15 are currently under confined field trials while three have been released.

Mwirigi revealed that Bt cotton, a genetically modified pest-resistant plant cotton variety that produces an insecticide to combat bollworm, is under cultivation while Bt maize and virus-resistant cassava against cassava brown streak disease are undergoing National Performance Trials at the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service, noting that the technology can help reverse hunger and malnutrition in the arid and semi-arid regions.

Kanangire added that successful deployment of agricultural technologies depends on relevance, cost-effectiveness, and food security remains a significant global concern, hence calling for the application of biotechnology, genetic modification and gene editing technologies.

The scientists stressed that the Bt cotton farmers in Kenya and Bt Maize in South Africa are a demonstration that the technology is viable and that the levels of doubt and fear are reduced by the evidence of safety and efficacy.

Kanangire disclosed that AATF is undertaking research and exploring commercialization pathways for striga-tolerant and water-efficient maize varieties, hybrid rice varieties, aflatoxin control technologies for maize and peanuts and insect-resistant maize varieties that significantly reduce farmers’ losses to stem borers and to some extent, fall armyworm.

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