Windhoek -The African Union Commission Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture has urged African countries to utilize the COVID-19 phase for boosting food security with agricultural research and innovations.
The Commissioner of the organ-Her Excellency Josepha Leonel Correta Sacko said COVID-19 has created an opportunity for Africa to explore contextualized solutions relevant to the continent.
“This is the best time to boost Africa’s food security. It presents us with a crisis within a crisis. The science and technology and innovation are a critical agenda now than ever before,” she said in her remarks during an e-forum on the contribution of agriculture research and innovation in mitigating the impact of COVID-19 in Africa last week.
She underscored the essence of science in finding solutions to the current crises of climate change and COVID-19 which are likely to negatively impact Africa’s food security.
Supporting Correta Sacko, Dr Idrahim Mayaki, the Chief Executive Officer at Africa Union Development Agency (AUDA)-NEPAD said the COVID-19 is a local problem which requires hypothesized native solutions.
He warned African countries against shelving local research findings and opting for external results which did not solve the problem.
“We should not push forward other people’s agenda but instead push the African agenda so that the continent becomes self-reliant,” he said.
The COVID-19 pandemic crisis comes at a time where Africa has been deprived of normal agricultural yields due to the effects of climate change; on the other hand, floods and drought are adversely affecting food production in the southern African region.
During the meeting, a farmer’s representatives, Elizabeth Nsimadala, who is also the president for the Pan African Farmers Organization (PAFO), also highlighted some of the challenges being experienced by farmers due to COVID-19.
Among the challenges are: lack of farming inputs as stocks could not be delivered at the onset of the farming season due to travel restrictions imposed as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Nsimadala said there is a need for improved synergies between the extension of research and farming in Africa.
She also appealed for formation of digital platforms in the region where farmers can aggregate, share and utilize data.
“There is a need for African government to ensure that farmers access post-loss harvest funds so that they can recover from unforeseen disruptions. This pandemic should also be a wake-up call for us to think around how best we can move research from the lab to the farm in order to attain food security for the continent,” she said.
The meeting which was held to elicit perspectives and secure buy-in from stakeholders in the continent’s agriculture science, technology and innovations saw over 200 representatives across the continent participating.
Among the participants were the CAADP-XP4 implementing organizations. These include the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA); the Centre for Coordination of Agriculture Research and Development in Southern Africa (CCARDESA); African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services (AFAAS); West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF), and Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA).
The contributions made during the meeting are set to be filtered and be used for the development of a complete and detailed road map that sub-regional and continental bodies will follow to fully address the impact of the COVID-19 on the agricultural and research sector.