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Science Has the Power to Boost Farming in Africa. But a Lot Has to Change

05:04 EDT 20 Jun 2017 | Meridian Institute

In this article, Frans Swanepoel, a research fellow in residence with a focus on Future Africa at the Centre for Advancement of Scholarship, University of Pretoria, South Africa, writes that the global agricultural sector provides jobs for more than 40 percent of the world’s population. It is also a successful sector, he says, with huge improvements in yields and food production over the past five decades. Many of these gains have been felt in Africa, yet hundreds of millions of Africans are going hungry every day. Why, asks Swanepoel, is there such a disconnect between food production and food security in Africa? One way to narrow this disconnect, he says, is through science. Yet Africa, he notes, is behind the curve on investing in research to improve agriculture outputs. Despite the fact that all 54 countries in the African Union have signed up, under the Maputo Declaration, to increase their agricultural research budgets to at least 10 percent of their national budgets, only 13 countries had met or exceeded that target in one or more years since it was signed in 2003. Another problem, he says, is that Africa relies on external capacity for most of its research in agriculture, undermining the continent’s capacity to use science to deliver solutions unique to Africa. “This needs to change. Scientific research should be Africa-based, owned and led. Investment will be key – and so will solidarity among African scientists and governments,” writes Swanepoel.

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Food is any substance consumed to provide nutritional support for the body. It is usually of plant or animal origin, and contains essential nutrients, such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, or minerals. The substance is ingested by an organism ...