Food security scare as Senegal snubs agri tech
GOVERNMENTBy BiztechAfrica - Oct. 21, 2012, 1:34 p.m.
By Issa Sikiti da Silva, Dakar, Senegal
Many observers believe that Senegal’s problems of food insecurity and severe malnutrition are self-inflicted, as the drought-hit West African nation continues to rely on rain-fed agriculture while snubbing agricultural innovation.
The country has long ignored the micro-propagation invitro or plant cloning- a technology that consists of cloning (artificially multiplying) plants in a small space of time to boost agricultural production and increase food self-sufficiency.
The innovative practice, successfully adopted in North Africa and several developed countries, is seen by some analysts as a better and long-term response to the food problems facing Senegal, whose 6% of its population (800 000 people), including 120 000 children under five, are malnourished and are in dire need of food aid.
The Government of Canada, through its Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has this month pledged $20 million over three years (2012-2015) to support to food security and nutrition projects in Senegal.
“It’s the politicians’ fault. We wouldn’t have such a food crisis if we have travelled the agricultural innovation route a long time ago,” a source close to the Agence Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique Appliquée (ANRSA) told Biztechafrica.
Dakar-based ANRSA is the government-funded institution trying to develop the above-mentioned technology, but faces problems of shortage of funding, equipment and skills.
“It doesn’t matter how small the plant is, whether it can produce grains or not, it can be multiplied on a big scale, and the results will be amazing,” the source, who was not authorised to speak to the media, explained.
Small-scale farmers, the source said, can also be equipped with such skills and technology so that they can do their own things and help the country defeats the spectre of malnutrition, unemployment and high food prices.
It is also believed that this innovative practice can help save and conserve endangered plant species.
Agriculture represents 75% of Senegal’s workforce, and accounts for about 20% of its GDP. The country has only 5% of irrigated land and had seen its 2011-2012 agricultural season ends in failure as drought destroyed most of its best crops.
This has resulted to the increase of food prices and put a huge strain on the already struggling households.
The Senegalese government has identified food self-sufficiency as one of its top priorities, but it is widely criticised for lacking a clear sense of direction in the area of agricultural innovation, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) says.
IFPRI regrets that despite four different government agencies currently setting the country’s agricultural innovation agenda, they are often overlapping and even having conflicting mandates.
The World Bank has in May this year approved USD120 million to finance the second phase of the West African agricultural productivity program aiming to improve food production by spreading new agricultural technologies in Ghana and Senegal.
The Washington-based institution said the programme will finance technology exchange programs, align national priorities with regional ones to increase regional cooperation in food technology generation, and support a greater push for technology adoption and dissemination.
MORE GOVERNMENT NEWS
AfDB gathers partners in Tunis to advance sustainable energy for allThe African Development Bank is hosting a two-day workshop in Tunis as part of the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) Africa Hub activities. Read More
CCK reviews digital broadcast signal distribution charges downwardsKenya's CCK has reviewed downwards tariffs for digital signal distribution, in a move geared towards a smoother migration to digital television broadcasting. Read More
Nigeria govt talks tough over service qualityThe Nigerian Government has read the riot act to telcos over poor service quality, threatening to institute legal action against any that fall foul of the law. Read More
Zambian SIM reg deadline loomsZambians have until 31 December to register their SIM cards, after which unregistered SIMs will be deactivated. Read More
Kenyan analogue switch off delayedKenya’s analogue switch off date has been extended, following a last-minute court challenge. Read More
YouthConnekt Hangout scoops UNDP innovation awardRwanda’s YouthConnekt Hangout has won the first prize at the UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa's innovation fair. Read More
Questions over Ghana journalists’ laptopsThe Ghana Journalists’ Association is to respond to a charge over how it distributed laptops purchased with funds from the Government Media Development Fund. Read More
Rwanda gets RwandapediaRwanda has launched its Rwandapedia – a digital archive of cultural and historical information. Read More
iPads for Ugandan MPsIn a move aimed at cutting the stationery costs threefold, members of the Ugandan legislature have received iPads. Read More
FEATURED STORYDigital pen reports disease outbreaks in seconds
Livestock farmers in Kenya are sighing with relief after introduction of a digital pen technology used by veterinary officers to immediately report to the capital about any disease outbreak.
BEST READ NEWS
IN DEPTHCorporate cyber security threats of the year
91% of organisations polled suffered a cyber-attack at least once in the past year, says Kaspersky Lab in its security review of 2013.