A decade of facilitating access to innovative agricultural technologies for smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa

           Nancy Muchiri
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African Agricultural Technology Foundation celebrates 10 years of facilitating access to agricultural technologies in Africa as Kenya is urged to sustain the Africa Rising spirit

The African Agricultural Technology Foundation and partners have successfully negotiated technologies and other applications estimated at US$ 110 million which when finally deployed are expected to impact an estimated 14.5 million smallholder farmers in 13 countries who would otherwise not manage to access such innovations in the first place.

Nairobi, 8 November 2013 - Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture Livestock and Fisheries, Felix Koskei has said that Kenya needs technological interventions and relevant policy implementation that will ensure vulnerable smallholder farmers have access to technologies that can catalyse adequate food production, business growth and income generation. In a speech read on his behalf by Dr Khadijah Kassachom, the Principal Secretary Livestock, during the 10th anniversary celebrations of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) in Nairobi, the Secretary said this would sustain the Africa Rising spirit which has seen Kenya’s agricultural sector record an increased growth of 3.8 percent in 2012 up from 1.5 percent in 2011.  

“I am aware, that some technological innovations can raise farmers’ yields, reduce excessive use of pesticides and other agro-chemical inputs, increase the nutrient value of basic foods and contribute to the development of elite crop and livestock breeds adapted to tolerate drought, salinity and low soil nutrients” he said.

Mr Koskei reiterated the Kenya government’s support of the application of Science, Technology and Innovation as one of the foundations for socio-economic development in line with the aspirations of Kenya’s Vision 2030. “Technological innovations including agricultural are protected by a range of legislation and intellectual property regimes which he said have kept promising technologies that would have further fueled the growth of African agriculture virtually out of reach of ordinary smallholder farmers” he said.

AATF was established 10 years ago as a mechanism for negotiating royalty-free access and delivery of agricultural technologies on behalf of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) especially scientists and farmers. AATF also forms partnerships for the development and deployment of these technologies. In this process, AATF acts as the ‘responsible party’ ensuring technologies are appropriately and responsibly developed and used across the value chain.

The net worth of all technologies and other applications that AATF and partners have successfully negotiated to date stands at an estimated US$ 110 million – this is about Ksh 9.4 billion which when finally deployed are expected to impact an estimated 14.5 million smallholder farmers in 13 countries who would otherwise not manage to access such innovations in the first place.

Prof Idah Sithole-Niang’ the Foundation’s Board Chair said that “AATF was formed after a series of consultations supported by Rockefeller Foundation to find ways of closing the growing gap between the agricultural science controlled by developed countries and the needs of the developing world.

Productivity in Africa lags behind the global average and technology is key to reversing this trend and unlocking the potential of African agriculture. The technologies that AATF helps to access vary depending on priority needs identified by farmers. These can include chemical, mechanical, biological, biotechnological and process-based solutions.

The AATF Executive Director Dr Denis T. Kyetere expressed gratitude to the governments of Kenya and Nigeria for hosting the Foundation and enabling it to set up offices in the two countries. Terming agriculture as the backbone of SSA’s economic development Dr Kyetere said that growth in agriculture is 11 times more effective in reducing poverty on the continent where about 70 percent its people live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihood. However, he lamented that one in three people who live in SSA are hungry which has led to it being rated as the most food insecure. He blamed this state to the low utilisation of technology which is largely hampered by the intellectual property and product stewardship challenges which AATF addresses by ensuring that appropriate partnerships and networks are in place to develop and deploy the technologies to farmers. 

In addition to addressing technological constraints that face smallholder farmers AATF also coordinates several enabling initiatives to help inform policy and decision-making. This is because agricultural productivity is also impacted by policies and other decisions taken by governments. Such enabling initiatives include outreach and issue management through various programmes such as the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB) that supports awareness and education on biotechnology; monitoring trends in R&D priorities; regulations for genetically modified crops; evolution of seed systems; intellectual property policy and legislation; and value chain analysis.

Highlighting the achievements of AATF over the last 10 years during which it has grown into an effective mechanism for technology transfer, Dr Kyetere said that the Foundation had managed together with partners, to introduce into Sub-Saharan Africa agricultural technologies valued at approximately $110 million given the proprietary nature of most of them. In addition, AATF has also grown into an experienced partnership management organisation – currently coordinating 10 public-private partnership projects across 60 organisations in 10 countries. Together with partners, AATF has also secured government-backed support for trials for agricultural biotechnology products and also helped strengthen capacity among scientists and various players including policy makers, regulators, seed merchants, extension service providers, journalists and farmers across the agricultural development value chain.

Looking forward, Dr Kyetere said that AATF will in the next five years see new technologies that seek to address constraints that are critical get into farmers’ hands. These include technologies that control insect damage on key African staple crops such as cowpea; drought effects on maize; and disease affliction on banana. These new technologies that are expected to reach farmers from 2014 onwards offer potential to contribute millions of dollars to the economy- including better health and wellbeing through saving on losses due to the constraints being addressed and through increased productivity through reduced use of insecticides.

The Foundation focuses on food and high value crops produced by smallholder farmers in SSA.  The technological solutions that AATF brokers targets SSA’s priority agricultural constraints such as impact of climate change on agriculture; pest management; soil management; nutrient enhancement in foods; improved breeding methods; and mechanisation.

AATF's investors over the last 10 years have included UK's Department for International Development (DFID), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Rockefeller Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Howard G. Buffet Foundation, Pepsico, Syngenta Foundation for Agriculture and National Governments.

Among the projects that AATF currently participates in include: Striga control in maize; improvement of banana for resistance to banana bacterial wilt; development of drought tolerance and insect-pest protection in maize; development of nitrogen-use efficient, water-use efficient and salt tolerant rice varieties, cassava mechanisation and agro-processing, aflatoxin control in maize and peanuts and cowpea productivity improvement. 


About AATF (www.aatf-africa.org)

The African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) is a not-for-profit organisation that facilitates and promotes public/private partnerships for the access and delivery of appropriate agricultural technologies for use by smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa.


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