By Mary Hearty

With the recurrent challenges facing the African food system such as drought and climate change, pests and diseases, market failure and inefficient value chains, and adulterated agro-inputs; investing in innovations and technology alongside good agricultural practices and making them easily accessible to farmers is the greatest opportunity to transform it.

Dr. Denis Kyetere, African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) Executive Director made the remarks during a High-Level Dialogue, dubbed: “Feeding Africa: Leadership to Scale Up Successful Innovations”, where he spoke on Leveraging Innovation and Technology for Transformation of African Food Systems.

“African farmers are making incredible progress and they can become even more productive and profitable with the right tools, technologies, and knowledge. Like, better seeds, machinery and digital tools alongside good agricultural practices,” he said.

Sharing success stories, challenges and opportunities, Dr. Kyetere noted that AATF and its partners under the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) Project, developed climate-smart maize hybrids popularly known as DroughtTEGO that are water efficient and tolerant to moderate drought to help farmers address the challenges of drought occasioned by climate change.

“The TEGO varieties posted exciting performance with yields of 8 to 12 tonnes per hectare compared to the average of 1.4 tonnes per hectare in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA),” Dr. Kyetere stated.

He observed that out scaling these climate-smart varieties to farmers in good time to have the desired impact was critical to ensuring the innovation achieved its goal.

Accordingly, the African Development Bank (AfDB) launched in 2018 the Technologies of African Agricultural Transformation Project (TAAT) Maize Compact in 11 countries in Africa including Kenya Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, and Benin, with AATF as the lead implementer.

“The TAAT Maize Compact aimed at scaling out and disseminate high-yielding climate-smart maize varieties including the DroughtTEGO hybrids developed through the WEMA Project, and complementary technologies such as appropriate fertilizer blends, weed management, post-harvest management and mechanization of farming operations,” Dr. Kyetere pointed out.

In addition, the TAAT Maize Compact is set out to link farmers to market and to value addition opportunities such as processing for better returns to create more demand for these maize technologies and improve household incomes.

According to Dr. Kyetere, over 2.4 million farmers benefited from the climate-smart varieties with increased maize productivity in just under 30 months.

To curb the Fall Armyworm menace in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), the Compact helped about 360,000 farmers in Zimbabwe and Zambia to access Fortenza Duo treated climate-smart maize seed that assured them of protection from the worm.

Further, the TAAT Maize partnership worked with women-owned farms and small and medium-sized enterprises that contributed to the production of over 3,900 tons of climate-smart maize hybrids in Tanzania. In Kenya, the Project worked with 34 women groups affiliated to Western Region Farmers Network to support technology adoption.

He emphasized that what Africa needs to maintain such a forward-looking movement is political, financial, and social support systems. This means having the appropriate policies in place; matching regulations; and well-structured and capable institutions with relevant and qualified human resources. These are critical elements that facilitate farmers’ access to technologies that would make a difference to their lives and to country economies.

The meeting was co-hosted by the African Development Bank (AfDB), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Forum for Agriculture Research in Africa (FARA), and the CGIAR System Organization.