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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 andparticipation.
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