Food security scare as Senegal snubs agri tech
GOVERNMENT| 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
Water utilities to introduce USSD serviceBotswana’s Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) will soon officially launch a service using Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD), for its customers throughout the country. Read More
Scatec Solar secures 100 MW Solar Project in NigeriaScatec Solar has signed an agreement with CDIL, a Canadian renewable energy development company focused on Africa, and BPS, a Nigerian strategic consulting firm, securing the 100 MW (DC) Nova Scotia Power plant located in Jigawa State, Nigeria. Read More
Tackling cybercrime requires new skills, says ministerNigeria's ComTech Minister, Adebayo Shittu, says new skills are needed to address the global threat of cybercrime. Read More
Unsolicited SMS: We’ve given subscribers choice, says NCCNigeria’s telecoms sector regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) says it has given subscribers the power to choose between receiving unsolicited messages or not through the enforcement of the DND code on the telcos. Read More
NITDA seeks NCC collaboration for 50% GDP growthThe acting Director-General of Nigeria’s NITDA is seeking the collaboration of the NCC to develop the country’s ICT industry to enable it to contribute about 50 per cent to the nation’s GDP. Read More
Amosun, Danbatta settle disputes over 47 BTS shut in OgunThe outstanding issues which have kept 47 base transmission stations (BTS) under lock and key in Ogun State have been successfully resolved by the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof Umar Garba Danbatta. Read More
ComTech Minister: NITDA recruitment fraudulentNigeria’s Minister of Communications, Barrister Adebayo Shittu, has described the last recruitment exercise at the Nigeria Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) fraudulent as it did not follow due process. Read More
Buhari advised on national addressing systemNigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has been advised to establish a national addressing system in the country to check the crime rate in the country. Read More
Science & Tech Minister: We’ll deepen R&DThe Minister of Science and Technology has identified poor funding and ineffective coordination as reasons Nigeria’s technological development has remained stunted. Read More
NCA cushions consumers from future interconnection hikesThe Ghana National Communication Authority (NCA) has revealed that in order to safeguard consumers from interconnection price hikes, it has enforced that operators maintain their current rates from now until January 2018 in spite of operations of the Interconnect Clearing House (ICH) in Ghana. Read More
FEATURED STORYFinancial services sees AI as both opportunity and threat
Banking is already a key area where technology is having an impact throughout Africa, and a new survey assesses the impact artificial intelligence will have on this sector.
BEST READ NEWS
IN DEPTHAccess and Use of ICT stats released
Statistics Botswana has released the first results of the 2014 Information and Communication Technology Household Survey.