By Gift Briton

The inaugural African Conference on Agricultural Technologies (ACAT 2023) has officially kicked off in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital with most speakers calling on countries to harness technology for improving agricultural productivity in the continent.

During the next four days until 3rd November, delegates will deliberate on ways of getting agricultural technologies into the hands of every farmer in the continent to boost the resilience and productivity of agricultural systems, including showcasing scalable technologies and innovations that can transform livelihoods in Africa.

Africa remains one of the most food insecure continents with low agricultural productivity being a key factor. The low agricultural productivity, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), is due to low investment in agricultural technologies by both the public and private sectors.

ACAT 2023 is co-hosted by the government of Kenya and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) under the theme: “Agricultural Resilience Through Innovation.”

Kenya’s President, Dr William Ruto, who was represented at the event by the Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, Mithika Linturi renewed the government’s commitment to create an enabling environment to encourage innovation and utilization of science technology and innovation to address agricultural challenges and ensure food and nutrition security.

“I firmly believe that the current low productivity characterizing Kenya’s agricultural sector and Africa can be transformed through the adoption of new technologies and innovations,” the speech reads.

He added: “It is a well-known fact that the effective application of science and technology in agriculture is a powerful tool that can achieve two goals improving productivity across value chains while at the same time building resilience to the effects of climate change.”

Mithika Linturi, Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development

In his keynote address, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, Former President of Nigeria, observed that the path to agricultural resilience and food security in the continent lies in the effective and innovative use of technology.

Dr. Jonathan said that Africa must rapidly evolve by embracing innovation to foster resilience in its agricultural endeavors. “Innovation must be part of our resolute course to re-shaping our agricultural outlook that should help our farmers to ably adopt new approaches to effectively withstand the myriad of challenges that currently bedevil the sector,” he urged.

The AATF’s Goodwill Ambassador also added that innovations are required that will ensure continued production in good volumes by making production systems more efficient, sustainable and climate-smart.

“As we convene to discuss the vital role of innovation in building agriculture resilience in Africa, let us remember that it is not only an opportunity but also our duty to harness the full potential of our agricultural sector,” he urged.

Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, Former President of Nigeria and AATF’s Goodwill Ambassador

With evidence showing that the average investment in science technology and innovation in Africa at 0.5% of gross domestic product (GDP) against the global average of 1.7%, Dr Canisius Kanangire, the AATF Executive Director, noted in his welcoming remarks that there is need for countries to renew their commitments to the calls for investment in science technology and innovation.

“AATF and its partners have tapped into science technology and innovation to contribute to the wealth, health and resilience of Africa’s smallholder farmers in view of various challenges including climate change and infestation by pests,” he added.

This year, according to Dr Kanangire, AATF is also celebrating two decades of facilitating access to innovative agricultural technologies worth over USD 650 million, benefitting over 4.8 million smallholder farmers in 24 countries across the continent.