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April 15, 2008

Poor uptake of innovations is cause of Africa's low agricultural productivity

Use of inappropriate technology and mismanagement of agricultural systems is to blame for the slow rate of Africa’s growth in productivity, experts said.

An international food policy conference held in Addis Ababa heard that a large fraction of farming in Africa is still dependent on traditional modes of production. Attempts to upgrade technology suffer serious management setbacks.

The conference organised by International Food Policy Research Institute aims to advance agriculture in developing countries through knowledge and innovation.

More than 70 per cent of the world’s poor live in rural areas with agriculture as the main economic activity. Economists believe that the best way of lifting these people out of poverty is to link them to markets.

This approach, they said, would formally engage all segments of the farming community in gainful economic activity, opening for them a window to escape poverty.

India, with the support of the World Bank, has intensified this programme with an extension model. The programme encourages small-scale farmers to pursue high-value crops, livestock and other enterprises which make their farming systems more market-oriented.

Tesfaye Lemma, an Ethiopian agronomist, said that sustainable and market-oriented, smallholder dairy development in Ethiopia have proved to be the most promising option. This is because the system not only to boosts rural incomes, but also improves nutritional security of the producers who are usually low income earners. He however regretted that despite decades of interventions, the sector remains subsistence-oriented, used by farmers to produce food for domestic consumption only. The country is yet to catch-up with other sub-Saharan African countries in per capita milk production and consumption.

The Addis Ababa consultative meeting also provided a forum for researchers, policymakers, and practitioners from different sectors to discuss issues in related to agricultural knowledge and innovation.

Business Daily Africa

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