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Emerging Technologies to Benefit Farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia 8 Priorities for Emerging Technologies The previous five chapters describe a wide variety of emerging technologies with the potential to improve the life of farmers in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and South Asia (SA) by increasing agricultural productivity and creating new opportunities for income. In this chapter, the committee recommends nine of those technologies for immediate development into applications for SSA and SA. Nine other technologies, in earlier stages of development, are recommended as priorities for intensive exploration. The chapter describes the committee’s rationale and process for evaluating and prioritizing these technologies. EVALUATING TECHNOLOGIES IN A BROAD CONTEXT All of the technologies described in this report could potentially play a role in improving agricultural productivity. However, in addition to identifying technologies, the committee was asked to build a framework for prioritizing them, with the goal of recommending those most likely to have a transformative impact on farmers in SSA and SA. The committee’s overall analysis was shaped by several themes that arose frequently during the course of the study. These themes or principles, described below, led the committee to examine priorities in a broader context. This approach was complemented by a set of criteria developed by the committee to evaluate the qualities of individual technologies. Technologies must be implemented in a system-wide approach. Agricultural production is a complex system, the components of which are interdependent. In the ideal farm system, disease-resistant livestock
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Emerging Technologies to Benefit Farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are fed nutritious, easily digested forage and receive good veterinary care, producing healthy offspring and good quality meat and milk. High-quality, high-yielding seed are planted in fertile soil, and the crop is grown free of viruses, pests, and weeds. Nutrients are applied at appropriate times during the crop’s growth cycle. Crops receive adequate sun and clean water, grow in an optimal temperature zone, and are harvested at the peak of maturity. Nutrients in the soil are replenished on a regular basis. In reality, production systems in SSA and SA are far from this ideal. These agricultural systems are deficient in many components, collectively creating a barrier to improving production. Technological innovations can provide fixes for specific problems or components of the system, but they are not comprehensive solutions by themselves. In these regions, introducing even the most highly-effective technology may fail to provide even marginal increases in overall farm productivity. It is difficult to improve livestock reproduction or increase meat or milk production if the animals are chronically infected with pathogens and are fed low-quality, poorly digestible forages. The value of elite, locally-adapted germplasm is substantially diminished when it is planted in poor quality soil that is infested with weeds that harbor insect-borne viruses that infect the crop and limit its yield. Developing solutions to the problem of poor agricultural productivity requires a multi-faceted approach to address deficiencies throughout the farming system. No one technology or constraint can be generally identified a priori as being more important than others. The development and success of innovations require local expertise and participation. Individual farming systems require the development of their own set of technological priorities, and many of these requirements will need to be determined locally. Farmers will adopt a technology when they are convinced of its benefits; moreover, they need training to use technology effectively. As the individuals most intimately knowledgeable of their farm systems, they hold valuable insights for scientists trying to solve specific agricultural problems. An exchange between farmers and scientists is essential. Agricultural systems in industrialized nations have significant public and private extension services; the farmers in SSA and SA need the same support. In addition, although not all aspects of technological innovations need to be developed locally, at some point, a technology will need to be evaluated to determine whether it fulfills local needs. Soils are diverse; their unique conditions need local evaluation and remediation plans. Animal vaccines will need to be tested against regional variants of pathogens in
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Emerging Technologies to Benefit Farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia local breeds of cattle. Crop breeding requires the evaluation of phenotypes under local environmental conditions. The effective management of water requires local and regional coordination with the advice of local engineers and hydrologists. Weather prediction algorithms need rainfall data collected widely at the ground level. There is really no way to get around the fact that the successful development and implementation of technology requires the availability of local expertise. Agricultural innovations for SSA and SA do not need to be based on “low” technology. Because farming systems and conditions in SSA and SA are different from those of many industrialized countries, there may be opportunities to adopt innovations that have been used less extensively in industrialized agriculture. For example, biocontrol programs or efforts to manipulate the soil biota, which have had mixed success in the United States, might perform better in regions where there has been less pesticide use. Subsurface irrigation, while expensive on a large scale, might be effective in growing high-value crops, like vegetables, on small plots. Although farmers in SSA and SA are generally resource-poor, the need for innovations that are affordable should not be considered “low-tech” or “appropriate” technologies. Cost and cost-effectiveness are different concepts. For example, while farmer-saved seed will continue to be important for the very poor, it is counterproductive to suggest that it is the only good policy, given the performance of high-quality seed that has a high germination rate, is pathogen-free, and is clean of weed seed. Farmers who opt to plant seed saved from a previous harvest also forgo the benefits of heterosis—the vigorous performance of hybrid seeds that include higher yields and greater resistance to pests and diseases. The challenge to science is to either reduce the cost of hybrid seed or to find a way to maintain heterosis from generation to generation. It is generally assumed that advanced technologies will be developed and used in industrialized countries before they are introduced to SSA and SA, but this means that technologies addressing specific needs in SSA and SA will never materialize if they do not fill a niche or need in the industrialized world. As a result, important opportunities may be missed, such as applications that could compensate for or provide alternatives to poor infrastructure that would otherwise take years to create. The development of off-the-grid energy sources is one example. Another is novel biofuels more suited to SSA and SA than to other regions. The use of biocontrol and biopesticides might be much more successful in SSA, where synthetic pesticide use is lower than in industrialized countries. Incentives and support for
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Emerging Technologies to Benefit Farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia the development of specific applications could deliver benefits faster than waiting for market forces to propel technological development and letting benefits eventually trickle down to developing countries. Climate change has implications for technological applications in SSA and SA. Farmers in SSA and SA already face severe environmental constraints, but by all predictions, their livelihoods will be imperiled by the future consequences of global climate change, especially water scarcity. Comprehensive planning to alleviate the economic and ecological impacts of drought will be needed. In Africa, where only 5 percent of agricultural land is irrigated compared to more than 60 percent in Asia, small-scale farmers suffer from the vagaries of weather that are inevitable in rain-fed agriculture. In Asia, water use is inefficient, water quality is increasingly poor, and the receding of Himalayan glaciers is an ominous sign for the future. For these reason, technologies that improve the availability and efficiency of water use, whether provided by irrigation, drought tolerant crops, or other mechanisms will be needed. There are many unknowns about the future effect of global climate change on temperature, carbon dioxide levels, and the annual rain cycle in SSA and SA. In part, this is because existing weather conditions, models and forecasting tools for those regions are under-developed. If climate change creates more erratic weather conditions, it will be even more important in the future to provide farmers with forecasts of the onset of the rainy season, the prospect of severe weather events, and the likelihood of droughts. CRITERIA FOR TECHNOLOGY EVALUATION Within the context provided by these overarching themes, the committee used a set of questions or criteria to examine the relative merits of different technologies (Box 8-1). In general, higher value was placed on technologies that could be clearly aimed at a problem specific to agriculture in SSA and SA and that could provide the overall greatest benefit to farmers. This meant giving priority to technologies that could help the largest number of farmers and/or could most completely overcome the most severe problems. The next most important criterion was the speed at which a field-testable application could be developed, followed by the ability to easily disseminate the technology or to use it in applications of different scales. Other factors considered important, although given lesser weight, were the uniqueness of the “fix” provided by the application, the likelihood that development of the technology would lead to other breakthroughs, and whether the contemplated technological application was being developed
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Emerging Technologies to Benefit Farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia BOX 8-1 Criteria for Evaluating Technologies Is the technology relevant and applicable to agricultural constraints in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia? Does it address a problem that is specific to these regions? Would it have a direct effect on agricultural productivity in these regions? What is the magnitude of the expected benefit? Will many farmers and the rural poor benefit from the technology? Will it address a widespread or severe problem? How complete a solution would it provide? Would it empower the farmer? Is it likely to have a direct effect on farmer income? How long would it take for the technology to become available? Could the technology be easily disseminated and adapted? Is it scalable? Does the technology address an issue that cannot be approached in any other way? Is the technology a gateway to other innovations in agriculture? Will it leverage the development of other technologies to help farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia? Is the technology already under consideration, or is the problem already being addressed? elsewhere and was directed at a problem already receiving significant attention by many groups. Although these criteria were useful for evaluating different technologies, using them to prioritize technologies had limitations, especially because the magnitude of the benefits anticipated from a particular technology could not be judged independently—the impacts of a single intervention are very dependent on the overall environmental conditions of farm systems. In some cases, because the technology or application was only in a conceptual stage, complete answers to the questions posed were not readily evident. In general, the criteria favored technologies that are more fully developed and proven rather than those in earlier stages of exploration. The committee considered these limitations as it reflected on the selection of priorities in the broader context of the themes described earlier. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS Of the more than 60 technologies described in the report, the committee selected 18, grouped into two tiers, as having the greatest potential impact
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Emerging Technologies to Benefit Farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia on agricultural production in SSA and SA. The technologies are listed in Table 8-1 along with the chapters in which they appear in the report. The committee concluded that applications based on existing technologies that enable better management of soil and water resources, harness the genetic diversity of crops and animals, and control biotic constraints on production will have the greatest impact on agriculture in SSA and SA in the least amount of time. The committee recommends that “Tier I” tools and technologies, which are connected to fundamental elements of agricultural production, be given the highest priority for development into specific applications. From the perspective of SSA and SA, these technologies are emerging, because applications specific to the needs of farmers in these regions have not been developed or widely used. Such applications can be built on existing technologies that have, in most cases, proven to be effective, but building those applications will be unique and challenging endeavors with a high payoff for farmers in these regions. The committee also found that remarkable technological capabilities are emerging from advances in biology, chemistry, materials, remote sensing, and energy science that have important implications for agriculture. Although these advances will be universally important, farmers in SSA and SA may stand to gain the most from novel capabilities and agricultural applications that could meet their specific needs. The committee recommends that “Tier II” applications be given priority for further exploration to better elucidate their potential for implementation in SSA and SA. These applications are in various stages of development; some are not conceptually new but are being revitalized by scientific advances. Some of these will require TABLE 8-1 Priority Tools and Technologies to Improve Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia Tier I High Priority for Application Development Tier II High Priority for Additional Exploration Soil management techniques—Chapter 5 Soil-related nanomaterials—Chapter 5 Integrated water management—Chapter 4 Manipulation of the rhizosphere—Chapter 5 Climate and weather prediction—Chapter 4 Site-specific gene integration—Chapter 3 Remote sensing of plant physiology—Chapter 3 Annotated crop genomes—Chapter 3 Genome-based animal breeding—Chapter 6 Microbial genomics of the rumen—Chapter 6 Sperm stem cell transplantation—Chapter 6 Plant-mediated gene silencing—Chapter 3 Solar energy—Chapter 7 Biocontrol and biopesticides—Chapter 3 Photosynthetic microbe-based biofuels—Chapter 7 Disease-suppressive soils—Chapter 5 Animal vaccines—Chapter 5 Energy storage—Chapter 7
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Emerging Technologies to Benefit Farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia significant long-term research to better ascertain their potential value, and to determine whether it is possible to develop them into cost-effective applications. It may be possible to capitalize on investments in research efforts already under way in these areas and make rapid progress toward applications for SSA and SA. DISCUSSION OF TIER I AND II TECHNOLOGIES Natural Resource Management Soil quality was the number one issue identified by scientists from SSA and SA as important for increasing agricultural productivity in these regions. The prospect of water scarcity was the most commonly raised issue of greatest concern in the future. The committee considers the development of soil and water management applications as high priorities. Because soils and water are closely related and the climatic and socioeconomic conditions in which they exist differ regionally, approaches to their management are highly situational and should be area-specific and integrate natural and social factors. Soil and water management are integrative technologies—they require multiple methods determined for a particular site. The elements of different soil management systems described in Chapter 5, have similar objectives: to increase soil carbon content, enhance soil water infiltration, ensure the availability of water at the plant root zone, reduce soil erosion, create a positive nutrient budget in the soil, suppress the populations or activities of soilborne plant pathogens and soil-inhabiting insect pests, and encourage beneficial soil organisms. Water management techniques, described in Chapter 4, include an array of on-farm irrigation water capture, storage, and field application technologies that address the need to use water most efficiently. This includes technologies such as subsurface drip irrigation, which is highly efficient, but currently expensive for use on a large scale. However, its use in small plots might enable the growth of high-value crops to offset the added cost. The ability to more accurately predict the onset of the tropical rainy season or drought would be a transformative development for farmers in SSA and SA, who would be able to make pivotal timing and management decisions about their farming operations. These decisions make the difference between having a good crop and no crop at all. Models, databases, and monitoring devices for weather prediction that are taken for granted in industrialized countries do not exist in SSA and SA. Moreover, in spite of intense international interest in global climate change and its influence on the climate of the large land masses encompassed by SSA and SA, data collection and the algorithms needed to enhance existing climate models are
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Emerging Technologies to Benefit Farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia severely lacking. For this reason, weather and climate prediction are Tier I priorities for development. The committee recommends three Tier II technologies for further exploration. One is the use of naturally occurring or synthetic nanomaterials as soil amendments, including the development of a slow-release fertilizer. There are natural and synthetic zeolites that release phosphorus and nitrogen slowly; these compounds are prototypes for further nano-molecular refinements that could confer greater control of the conditions for or timing of release and dramatically improve fertilizer efficiency. A second area of exploration is the manipulation of the rhizosphere, which includes efforts to influence root architecture for greater carbon sequestration and increased water and nutrient uptake, and to encourage the growth of a microbial community that improves root health and crop growth. Although exploration of the rhizosphere is not new, novel molecular tools are providing greater insights to what might be the most critical processes in crop growth. The capability of manipulating this environment in the face of escalating fertilizer costs may someday transform the way that farmers approach agriculture. A third emerging technology is the use of optical sensing of plant physiological characteristics as a tool for nutrient management and determining the state of plant health and growth. Current technology has the ability to predict yield potential midway through the growing season and to suggest future fertilizer requirements based on the amount of nitrogen being removed from the soil by a plant. Hyperspectral information collected remotely could be connected to satellite-based, information-gathering systems that would be used by both farmers and scientists. Farmers who access this information could use it for decision-making, and scientists could use it for many different purposes, including documenting changes in the landscape, and the collection of phenotypic information from plants that is important for breeding programs. Although at first glance this seems an unlikely tool for poor farmers, the use of remote sensing information to obtain indicators of a diversity of changes on the landscape (from the conditions of crops to the spread of plant and animal diseases) has the potential to become an increasingly practical and valuable decision-making tool. Using Genetic Diversity for Crop and Animal Improvement It is imperative that modern breeding systems for the crops and animals of importance to farmers in SSA and SA become the focus of intensive international efforts, because they represent the best tools available for plant and animal improvement. For this reason, the committee places these technologies (described in Chapters 3 and 6) on the Tier I list. High-quality reference sequences and annotations for genomes of all the relevant major crops in SSA and SA can be built on those already available for rice and
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Emerging Technologies to Benefit Farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia sorghum and on the emerging maize genome sequence A community of researchers should be tasked with characterizing chromosomal variation in the germplasm of each crop species by using molecular markers, the locations of nucleotide polymorphisms, and haplotypes that can be linked to germplasm accessions and information associated with them. The construction of databases of this nature is pivotal if advanced molecular tools are to be used to improve crops in SSA and SA. Modern animal-breeding approaches will require a strategy for recording and collecting important phenotypic characteristics and DNA samples from about 10,000 animals. For SSA and SA, it will be necessary to build reference genome sequences for water buffalo, indigenous breeds of cattle that exhibit superior survival traits, and economically important breeds of dairy and meat goats. Using reference genomes as a template, it may be possible, through newly developed bioinformatics approaches, to simultaneously construct a pedigree and associate economically important traits with haplotypes. The haplotypes would be used to identify animals with outstanding genetic merit. Modern breeding systems require methodical organization and an expansive effort that could easily include dozens of scientists and technicians from in and outside of the regions for which improved crops and animals are to be raised. Although this is a significant undertaking, it is the foundation of any modern agricultural system and its benefits would be long-lived. The committee identified one Tier II application that would contribute to crop improvement, namely site-specific gene integration, described in Chapter 3. This technology would fulfill the ultimate dream of breeders to be able to precisely replace one allele of a gene with another allele that performs better for the trait it controls, under the conditions desired, without carrying along with it other genes that have no relevance and may even be deleterious. Whereas homologous recombination (the precise exchange of one allele for another) has been fairly routine in many animal systems, it has not been possible until recently to achieve in plant systems with any useful frequency. Having such a technology available should transform breeding and also ease the path for use of safer and more precisely controlled transgenic approaches to crop improvement. For animals, two important Tier II applications described in Chapter 6 are recommended for further exploration. Spermatogonial stem cells (SSC), the precursors of sperm, could be harvested from genetically superior males and transplanted into sires with less genetic potential. Those sires, in which the SSCs would multiply, would then be distributed to villages or small farmers. The technology could essentially provide a means for distributing superior germplasm while bypassing the need to establish the substantial infrastructure required for artificial reproductive technologies. The second Tier II application for animals would be based on a better
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Emerging Technologies to Benefit Farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia understanding of the microbial ecology of the rumen. Perhaps the most important limiting factor for cattle production in SSA and SA is poor animal nutrition. If it were possible to increase the efficiency of the microorganisms in the rumen that play important roles in fiber digestion and nitrogen metabolism, animal productivity (meat and milk) could be improved. Our understanding of the microbial communities in the rumen and the complex enzymology of fiber digestion has increased, but the information is incomplete. Continued work is needed to understand the enzymatic processes of ruminal fermentation. Because the techniques needed for study of the rumen are similar to those required for study of other microbial systems—including soils, food fermentations (for example, yogurt and cheese), and biofuel production—this microbial system should be further explored. Overcoming Biotic Constraints Biotic stresses, including the diseases of animals and crops, insect pests, and weeds, cause substantial agricultural losses to farmers in SSA and SA. Several technologies are available to address these stresses, and the committee recommends an immediate effort to build applications based on them. One of the most exciting developments in plant biology in recent years was the discovery of small RNA molecules (RNAs) that play key roles in plant development and resistance to stresses. This discovery has led researchers to create vectors containing genes that encode RNAs that target and down-regulate genes or interfere with a gene’s control of critical processes related to the interactions of plants with biotic stressors. Described further in Chapter 3, research results strongly suggest that plant-mediated delivery of gene-silencing RNAs can be used to control viruses, nematodes, certain insects, and possibly also parasitic plants and fungi. If successful, the development of this technology against such selected targets as the RNA viruses affecting many crops and Striga (witchweed) would be a major breakthrough in plant protection. Also described in Chapter 3 are alternative technologies to synthetic insecticides that might be particularly effective in Africa. These include classical biocontrol (releasing a pest’s natural enemies to control its population) and biopesticides (toxins produced by naturally occurring pathogens of the pest). Fungi, for example, are the most common pathogens in nature; they attack thrips, aphids, and weeds, and their mode of action by direct penetration of the cuticle makes them suitable candidates for controlling sucking insects and weeds. Fungi may also be useful for controlling storage pests, and have the potential to be engineered with traits that increase their virulence. This area of science is ripe for breakthroughs and new applications. A technology with a long history, but for which scientific understanding has been limited until recently, is disease-suppressive soils, discussed
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Emerging Technologies to Benefit Farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia in Chapter 5. Soils in which crop-associated microbial communities are actively managed have been shown to reduce plant disease and pest problems. There are several different science-based approaches to developing disease-suppressive soils, and molecular tools are increasing the ability to document and better control outcomes in different soil environments. Given the regionality of cropping systems and different disease pressures, such new tools would be very useful in developing inoculants for commercial use in SSA and SA. Animal vaccines are an active area of research for industrialized and developing country agriculture; this effort needs to be expanded. Existing vaccines used in industrialized countries need to be tested in the local environment, but at least some gains in meat and milk productivity might be expected by using them. Development of effective vaccines against parasitic and insect-vectored diseases would transform animal production. Several different approaches to vaccine production described in Chapter 6 offer potential. Opportunities for Energy Production Over the next several decades, significant public and private resources will be committed to developing renewable alternatives to fossil-based energy sources. If there were ever an opportunity for SSA and SA to leap beyond the status quo of energy supply infrastructure, now is the time. Although the regions’ needs for energy transcend agriculture, the availability of additional energy for agricultural production would provide farmers with greater production capability and new opportunities. Plant-based biofuels, like cash crops, will have a role to play in the agricultural economies of the developing world, but the committee identified two other types of energy generation—solar and photosynthetic microbes—as alternatives that merit greater exploration. These technologies, described in Chapter 7 were identified as Tier II applications because it was felt they had significant potential for SSA and SA, but were accompanied by many uncertainties. Although many developing countries have invested in oil palm and Jatropha as sources of oils for biodiesel, the most productive biodiesel-producing organisms are algae and cyanobacteria. Photosynthetic microorganisms use energy from the sun to efficiently convert water and carbon dioxide into biomass, which can be converted to renewable fuels. A potential by-product of their growth is animal feed. Algae and cyanobacteria exhibit a variety of properties that make them well suited for use in biodiesel production: many species exhibit rapid growth in warm temperatures, produce high levels of oil, and can be genetically manipulated. In addition to liquid fuels, the rural poor need electricity. Solar
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Emerging Technologies to Benefit Farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia technologies include “third-generation” photovoltaic (PV) cells and concentrating solar (solar thermal) technologies used in conjunction with devices such as Stirling engines. Although cost and scalability are issues that need to be explored, there is already a market for PV cells and solar thermal applications in SSA and SA; expanding markets and capturing innovations for rural applications would allow these regions to be at the forefront of technology adoption. For off-the-grid applications to achieve their potential, it will be essential to complement their use with energy-storage devices. Alternatives to batteries include ultracapacitors, which have recently been improved through the incorporation of carbon nanotubes. As energy-storage devices, they have several advantages over batteries, including very high rates of charge and discharge and low degradation over thousands of cycles. Unlike batteries, they are made of materials with low toxicity. The devices are predicted to replace batteries in the industrialized world in the future, but their role in SSA and SA could be to store locally produced electricity. FINAL THOUGHTS: BUILDING LOCAL CAPACITY Many of the technologies described in this report are likely to be developed into agricultural and other applications for the industrialized world by the public and private sector in industrialized countries. It is far from certain that the same will happen in SSA and SA, even though, given the low agricultural productivity in these regions relative to the world average, there is an enormous opportunity to make dramatic improvements with existing and emerging technologies. In the committee’s view, the weak state of public and private capacity for research, development, and extension, if not corrected, will undermine the chances for this potential success. Even when international donors put substantial resources behind efforts to achieve rapid solutions to problems in SSA and SA, experience shows that without strong local partners, advanced science almost never succeeds in achieving sustainable results. The need for building local capacity to engage in successful partnerships has been cited in numerous high-level reports (e.g., NEPAD, 2002; IAC, 2004; Juma and Serageldin, 2007). For both crops and animals, there is a need to strengthen the national agricultural research programs, university training, and research so that breeders can apply advances in genomics, gene discovery, and transgenic technologies. Training for more veterinarians and animal scientists is needed, and a network for carrying out routine crop and animal disease diagnostics is essential. A long-term commitment to the development of human resources in these regions is needed at the level of technicians, extension agents, agricultural engineers, and research professionals. Although many countries in SSA
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Emerging Technologies to Benefit Farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia and SA maintain a large number of agricultural extension agents on government payrolls, they do not have sufficient resources to get into the field or to develop and provide the information they need to support farmers. In addition to local radio, the growing access to the Internet and cell phones can be used to great advantage in these regions to transform services. The delivery of information does not need to be in only one direction. The establishment of farmer-to-farmer or peer networks could also use new tools of information technology as a powerful means of communication. Local expertise can be built with efforts in and outside SSA and SA. One idea is to create training opportunities for young scientists in SSA and SA that are tied to research on agricultural problems in these regions by the world’s most accomplished scientists (see Box 8-2). Another is to create “regional innovation communities” that would pool resources of independent research institutions to work on specific technology missions important to the region. Such communities would bring together local populations, businesses, universities, governments, and international partners in focused collaborative efforts that would allow “technologically weak countries to articulate their demand for technology, innovation policy and related institutional adjustments” and would improve the confidence of Africans in managing their own development (Juma and Serageldin, 2007). The technical community of SSA and SA can become innovators on behalf of their own farmers. The methodical effort to eradicate rinderpest from cattle in Africa is evidence of the ingenuity and determination of scientists and practitioners from the continent to solve a major agricultural problem. The U.S. land-grant colleges and universities and their colleges of agriculture constitute a model of effective integration of research, teaching, and extension that is relevant to regional agriculture. As originally conceived, those institutions were provided with land, facilities, and recurring state and federal financing to support research and teaching that were important for farmers, ranchers, and foresters. The knowledge and technical knowhow coming from their research was made publicly available through extension faculty who taught the best farming practices and maintained demonstration plots, yield trials, and diagnostic clinics. Some of these U.S. universities could become effective partners in strengthening postsecondary educational institutions in SSA and SA. CONCLUSION Technology is not a complete solution to the needs of farmers in SSA and SA, but for far too long these farmers have toiled without the benefits of technology that producers in the industrialized world have enjoyed. As a result, the potential effects of improvements built on new and existing technologies are great. In this study of emerging technologies, many
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Emerging Technologies to Benefit Farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia BOX 8-2 Bringing Talent to the Challenges of Agriculture The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has helped to attract top scientists to address key problems in biology. Its approach is based on the conviction that exceptionally talented scientists will make important fundamental biological discoveries that will improve human health if they are provided the resources, time, and opportunity to pursue challenging questions. HHMI supports 298 investigators and approximately 30 international scholars, who are selected through rigorous national competitions and who include 12 Nobel Prize winners and 122 members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. They work in more than 64 U.S. and foreign universities, research institutes, medical schools, and affiliated hospitals. HHMI supports nearly 700 postdoctoral scientists and provide training opportunities for more than 1,000 graduate students each year. A program similar to that of HHMI but dedicated to research on the constraints facing agriculture in SSA and SA could breathe life into the agricultural sciences in these regions. A core of 20 to 30 investigators in international laboratories would create the foundation of such a program; sufficient financial resources would need to be provided to allow the research to become a primary activity of the laboratories. The fellows could be identified by competition and be periodically reviewed to document the quality and productivity of their research. A major goal of such a program would be to make funds available to the best and brightest young students of SSA and SA to train in labs of their choice, with the aim that they would return to their home countries with some funding of their own to establish laboratories and become future academic and scientific leaders. Over the long term, competitive grant programs are needed in SSA and SA directed at scientists at early stages in their careers, with funding going to the scientists not the institution. The possibility of mid-career sabbatical grants would also prevent stagnation and bring new ideas back into their home programs. The long-term outcome of such an effort would be the creation of a core of well-educated, well-trained scientists that share a common bond and have the interest and dedication to build comparable research institutions in their home countries. technological tools were identified that could be put to use to improve agricultural productivity and empower farmers to control their growing environments, their results, and their opportunities for income. The specific applications that will be based on those tools will require further articulation and a road map of the research and development needed to bring them to fruition. The committee hopes that the worldwide scientific community will join the effort to apply the tools to the needs of SSA and SA so that
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Emerging Technologies to Benefit Farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia one day they will achieve the self-sufficiency in food production of which they are capable. REFERENCES IAC (InterAcademy Council). 2004. Realizing the promise and potential of African agriculture. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: InterAcademy Council. Juma, C., and I. Serageldin. 2007. Freedom to Innovate: Biotechnology in Africa’s Development. Report of the High-level Africa Panel on Modern Biotechnology. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: African Union and Pretoria, South Africa: New Partnership for Africa’s Development. NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development. 2002. CAADP (Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme). Available online at http://www.fao.org/docrep/005/y6831e/y6831e00.htm [accessed April 1, 2008].
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