How lessons from India can invigorate African farming
India’s strides in agricultural science innovations can greatly benefit African nations, enhancing South-South collaboration between the two regions, said Dr Peter Carberry, Director General, ICRISAT, at the Foundation Day Lecture of the Indian National Academy of Agricultural Sciences on 5 June 2019.
Adopting an optimistic outlook towards the contribution of agricultural science to society, he said, “Significant agricultural productivity growth, diverse and nutritious food value chains and active rural community development have contributed greatly to India’s broader society and to its global reputation for innovation. Continued, targeted development has seen a significant reduction in the number of people living in extreme poverty in India, with this number likely to fall below 3% of the population by 2021.”
Dr Carberry listed three key innovations that could be successfully adapted in Africa:
- Pearl millet production: India can provide a pathway for identification and upscaling of pearl millet hybrids in sub-Saharan Africa. From a meager yield of 0.2 t/ha in the 1960s, to the present, average grain yields of about 1.2 t/ha with the help of hybrid seed technology and public-private sector partnership, the growth of pearl millet production is a success story that could be effectively reproduced in Africa.
- Agricultural value chain development: Favorable government policies and private sector investments have boosted agri-services and start-ups in food processing, input supplies, manufacturing and value chain operations in India. Africa could benefit similarly, especially with its large youth population and increasingly improved mobile telephony services.
- Watershed management: India’s considerably deep expertise in watershed management has benefited millions of farmers. The lessons learnt can be highly relevant to many African ecologies too, providing relief and opportunities to farmers.
Later, during a meeting with Mr Sanjay Agarwal, Agriculture Secretary, Government of India and Member, ICRISAT Governing Board, Dr Carberry, reiterated the sentiment that the CGIAR could play a critical role in bridging the two regions – India and Africa – by way of joint projects and initiatives by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and other CGIAR Centers.
“I want to believe in the incredible adaptive capacity of humans and the power of science and innovation,” said Dr Carberry, emphasizing the message of ICRISAT’s mission statement – To reduce poverty, hunger, malnutrition and environmental degradation in the dryland tropics.