By Gift Briton
With over 200 million people suffering from chronic undernourishment in Africa, adoption of new approaches in agriculture could be a key factor in achieving a prosperous and food secure Africa.
The African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) annual report notes that the agricultural sector is the foundation of economic growth and development in Africa and to this end, together with its partners, AATF is championing the empowerment of smallholder farmers in the continent by increasing their access to new and existing technologies.
“The role of nutrition is one important livelihood driver that can’t be discounted even as the world contends with the impact of setbacks brought about by the global pandemic and conflict-related shocks,” Dr. Ousmane Badiane, Board of Trustees Chairperson AATF wrote.
AATF is determined to improve food security at household and national levels, and drive improvements in incomes and livelihoods for farmers in the continent by focusing on the most important crops by small holder farmers including maize, cowpea, banana, rice, potato and cassava.
Through the organization’s current strategy (2018-2022), aimed at diversifying agricultural technologies accessed for use in Sub Saharan Africa(SSA), accelerating commercialization of agricultural technologies for improved farmer livelihoods and creating an enabling environment for increased uptake and use of agricultural technologies, AATF had reached over 20 million farmers by end of 2021, surpassing its five-year target of 16 million farmers.
Successes Recorded During 2021
Strengthening the pool of technologies for farmers
In collaboration with its partners, the organization released 11 new innovative products to the market. These includes three early maturing and high yielding rice hybrids with over 10 tons per hectare in Kenya through the Hybrid Rice for Africa Project.
Moreover, to rapidly help prime the market, AATF produced 4.5 tons of seeds of the three hybrids in preparation for full commercialization. One conventionally bred, climate smart, DroughtTEGO® hybrid maize variety was released in Nigeria through TELA Maize Project and seven varieties of high-yielding soybean were released in Malawi through the organization’s Seeds2B Project.
In addition, three best TELA® Bt hybrids, with yield advantage of up to 67 per cent were recommended for release in Kenya. Also, through the European Union Project (Bio4Africa Project), the organization launched a bio-based product for livestock launched in July 2021 to support development of bio-economy in rural Africa.
Accelerating access to technologies by farmers for improved livelihoods
In 2021, AATF and its seed company partners, produced a total of 3,827.6 tons of certified seed for different products including maize, PBR cowpea, hybrid rice, beans, soybean, and groundnut and planted 142,000 hectares of certified maize seed that benefited 357,352 farmers.
Consequently, besides supporting market priming through production of pre- commercial seed for produce demonstration and outreach, the organization also licensed 11 DroughtTEGO hybrids to five seed companies in Kenya and another five in Tanzania.
Currently operating in 23 African countries, AATF has reached over 19 million people through advocacy, outreach, and regulatory interventions that imparted knowledge, understanding and various forms of capacity strengthening to facilitate the growth of an enabling environment for innovative technologies
Additionally, with the introduction of genetically modified products into the market, AATF has also prioritized education on Insect Resistance Management (IRM) to ensure technology sustainability which is critical to its long-term successful use.
Creating an enabling environment for increased uptake and use of agricultural technologies
Driven by the need to address gaps along the agricultural value chain, AATF rolled out outreach and advocacy campaigns to support the deregulation processes for PBR cowpea and TELA maize in different countries. The organization championed knowledge sharing and education on innovative technologies especially those related to new emerging areas in biotechnology such as gene editing for better understanding and to inform decision making.
“We continued with efforts to engage governments, policy makers and regulators as strategic partners to improve the enabling environment for technology access, development, and use as we seek to further connect smallholder farmers with better opportunities,” Dr. Canisius Kanangire Executive Director AATF, noted.
Based on the report, AATF is also keen on creating relationships across the continent with regional, sub- regional and country-specific initiatives with the aim of helping farmers improve their livelihoods. On this regard, the organization entered into a relationship with the African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services (AFAAS) aiming to support technology education, deployment and uptake.
In addition, AATF launched an OFAB Chapter in Rwanda, Malawi and Mozambique to support the development and growth of agricultural biotechnology in the continent.
Other key milestones of the year included launch of the OFAB Annual Day to celebrate science and local scientists who have been at the forefront in developing technologies to address the problems of African agriculture.
The organization launched the OFAB Journalism Grant in September 2021 to deepen interactions and engagement with former winners of the OFAB Media Award to advance innovative reporting approaches in SSA. The inaugural launch saw AATF award USD33,000 worth of grants to journalists from the seven OFAB Chapters.