Thursday, October 21, 2010

African Farmers Urged to Embrace Technology

Farmers Urged To Embrace Technology

African farmers have been urged to use technology to boost food production on the continent. Low levels of agricultural productivity over the years have contributed to the recurrent food shortage that affects over 30 per cent of the population, representing about 260 million people.

This problem can be addressed if farmers equip themselves with up-to-date agronomic knowledge, embrace technologies that promote adequate fertilizer application as well as use improved seeds that guarantees high yields.

There are plans to boost food production in tropical Africa and Pedro Sanchez, Director of Tropical Agriculture and Rural Environment at the Columbia University, New York believes that it is possible to save many hungry people in Africa.

Interacting with visiting international journalists at a seminar on ‘Development and poverty reduction’ organized by the German based Capacity building institution- Inwent and the Initiative for Policy Dialogue of the Columbia University, New York, Mr Sanchez, who is also the Director of the Millennium Villages Project at the Earth Institute of the university, said research in many African countries had shown that the soil lacks nitrogen which could be replenished through prudent use of fertilizers.

As a solution, agronomists and soil scientists are collaborating with Google to use the latest technology for a digital soil mapping that would help farmers around the world.

The new technology, according to the Director of the African Soils information Services (AfSIS), is developing the digital soil map of the world, which would allow farmers to test the soil to ascertain the level of nitrogen required by their lands through the use of mobile phones.

“Just about everywhere in African there are mobile phones and through the soil mapping project, farmers can send questions on how much fertilizer they can apply to the soil and get answers through SMS.”

He said lack of a subsidy program, inaccessibility to farm inputs by farmers and poor extension services can be named as the underling factor behind the failure of the continent, which has the potential to produce enough food.

“It is essential that the extension services of the agricultural sector are equipped with the needed logistics.” The senior research scholar also dismissed claims that organic farming in Africa was not feasible because of its depleted soil.

He noted that it is possible to promote the high yielding hybrid seeds in Africa, explaining that the promotion of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) poses a new threat.

In most parts of Africa, Civil Society Organisations and other non-governmental organizations are against the introduction of GMOs, claiming that they pose as a threat to human lives and the environment.

“There is no scientific evidence of any damage to human health or the environment, for instance some GMOs like B cotton grown largely in South Africa have positive environmental effect as it reduces pesticide application,” he stated.

Two different research bodies in Europe have indicated that there are only simple agronomic problems related to GMOs. “It is not a scientific argument any more but a political argument. Burkina Faso had the political courage and is now a major producer of cotton in West Africa and they are doing well.

Story from News:

Published: 2010-10-20 20:52:33


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