Letter Inviting Comment about the Most Serious Constraints on Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia
I am writing on behalf of a National Research Council committee exploring emerging technologies to benefit farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. In this one-year study funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the committee is tasked with looking over the future horizon to find new areas of science and technology that, if developed into applications for agriculture, might have a major impact on the productivity and income of farmers in those regions.
As a first step, the committee will identify major agricultural problems and constraints in these regions, and seeks your help and opinion in this regard. What do you see as the priority problems that require technological solutions in order for farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan to be more successful and productive? Which problems are so limiting that their solution would be transformative to these producers?
The committee is very aware that farmers face complex problems that are intertwined with social, political, and economic circumstances, and that technology is not a solution by itself. Technological innovations are tools that are successful only when they work in a complementary environment.
Nevertheless, the committee’s assignment is to envision tools that, in the right set of circumstances, could give farmers more options for producing much more value from the land than they currently achieve. Such tools might dramatically increase crop and animal yields, provide the means to make value-added products, allow farmers more free time to pursue other economic activities, or give farmers greater flexibility in