Uniting for impact: Four themes to drive agricultural progress in Africa

Uniting for impact: Four themes to drive agricultural progress in Africa

A new roadmap outlining CIAT’s strategic vision for Africa 2017-2020 has been launched.

The roadmap, online here, highlights the organization’s goal in the region: To promote more productive, profitable agriculture and healthier diets at no environmental cost by providing a scientific basis for development investments and policies.

CIAT Director for Africa, Dr. Debisi Araba, said: “Scientific progress, underpinned by research, is complex. Understanding the drivers for change, as well as what is needed to address them, is not done by CIAT alone, but together with a myriad of partners. But we need to communicate clearly about the challenges facing Africa, and how we are uniquely placed to tackle them. This Roadmap is our blueprint of the capacity we have, and our united approach for solutions.”

While Sub-Saharan Africa is undergoing rapid transformation, with intensification of agriculture on smaller plots of land and with urbanization affecting agricultural innovation in rural areas, the shift represents great opportunities for the continent, he said.

“But reaching the continent’s potential requires innovative science to ensure agriculture is competitive, efficient and sustainable, that it produces healthy, affordable food for all, while not adversely affecting the ecosystems and landscapes upon which we all depend.”

Four thematic areas of focus:

Theme 1: Leveraging markets through improved productivity and competitiveness To run a successful and profitable agricultural businesses, smallholder farmers need improved crop varieties, good quality and affordable seed, organized channels to sell their produce, and access to market information, among many other things. Yet too often, they find themselves trapped in a vicious cycle: low quality seed and inadequate agricultural practices leading to low productivity. CIAT has the world’s largest collection of common bean and tropical livestock grass seeds. By protecting and improving this collection, our research aims to both improve seeds, and get them to more farmers, especially by partnering with the private sector and agribusiness for example.

Theme 2: Agriculture for improved nutrition Africa is the only continent in the world where poverty and malnutrition are on the rise. Agriculture is a source of nutritious food and income, enabling families, especially women, to afford diverse foods and services, such as better healthcare. Families can also build more resilient, healthy families by diversifying the food they grow on their farm. We will generate evidence and support investment in nutritious diets, including ways to track malnutrition before it becomes a crisis, putting in place a firm plan to help families put more nutritious food on the table.

Theme 3: Transforming farms and landscapes for sustainability About two-thirds of Africa’s land is degraded, while three percent of GDP is lost annually from soil and nutrient depletion from farmland. Strategies are needed to increase agricultural production without putting more pressure on our natural resources: soils; land; water – at no expense to farmers’ livelihoods – especially the livelihoods of women. Our research aims to make farms and whole landscapes more resilient and sustainable, providing information about how to improve soil, water and natural resource management, while building up data to address landscape damage at a bigger scale.

Theme 4: Investment planning for resilient agriculture Climate change and variability put crop productivity at risk, and make pest and disease outbreaks more likely to increase. Small-scale farmers in Africa are particularly vulnerable, and need help to make their farms more resilient. We will generate and share robust evidence of the risks associated with climate change – and importantly, the opportunities to address these – especially by generating evidence and options to guide investments in climate resilience.

Power of partnerships

The roadmap is built within the context of priorities which both public and private actors can invest in, and set within the framework of the global United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and highlights the power of partnerships: the private sector, NGOs, governments, development partners, and farmers will remain vital to our work.

As well as involving them closely in the research process, CIAT’s research findings aim to help partners make informed investments in agriculture, prioritizing limited resources for a healthier, wealthier continent.

Download the CIAT Africa Roadmap here