The Green Innovation Center, which was inaugurated at AfricaRice in Benin this month (3 January), aims to boost agricultural productivity, increase the incomes of smallholder farmers and create job opportunities, particularly for youth and women in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Togo, Tunisia and Zambia.
“The main gap that the centre seeks to close is the low capacity of the present extension service.”
Bernard Marc Winfried, AfricaRice
The Green Innovation Center is supported by the Federal German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), in partnership with other institutions such as Benin Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, and AfricaRice.
BMZ has given 2.7 million euros (almost US$3 million) to AfricaRice to implement the centre’s activities in 2016 and 2017, according to Bernard Marc Winfried, a knowledge management specialist at AfricaRice.
Gerd Müller, minister for BMZ, said during the inauguration that agriculture does not only need water and fertiliser but also knowledge and innovation.
Wilfried added that in Benin the initiative will facilitate the exchange of knowledge and interaction between researchers and development experts in 17 communities.
He explained that the centre will focus on strengthening the agricultural innovation system by promoting partnerships and developing an operational framework for innovation.
According to Winfried, researchers will develop a set of services and innovation that will serve as youth training tools and help increase sustainable productivity and incomes of agricultural producers.
“The main gap that the centre seeks to close is the low capacity of the present extension service. The activities will decisively improve access for farmers and traders to advisory, technical and business development services,” Winfried says.
David Arodokoun, the director-general of National Agricultural Research Institute of Benin, praises the creation of the centre, noting that the centre could address hunger and aid growth because “a development without innovation technology is a blind development”.
Arodokoun adds that African countries have not understood and managed to develop innovative technologies, and hopes the centre could also help create innovations that are friendly to the environment and can address climate change-related impacts.
Winfried tells SciDev.Net that the new centre will initially focus on four key commodities — rice, soybeans, small ruminants and poultry — but is open to work on other commodities upon request.
The South African government’s Water and Sanitation Department says the release of water from the Katse Dam in Lesotho (pictured above) into the Orange River will bolster the water supply into South Africa and should relieve the impact of the current drought.
Parts of the Eastern Cape’s Joe Gqabi District, including Aliwal North, are in dire straits as a result of the water shortage with district water services manager, Dumisani Luswana, saying all water sources, including the Orange river, are continuing to dry up. At the moment they are re-drilling boreholes in an attempt to find more water.
Meanwhile Margaret-Ann Diedricks, the government’s Water and Sanitation Director General, authorised the release of extra water from the Katse Dam. The flow of the 10 Cumecs (a cumec is the flow of one cubic meter of fluid per second) started the day before Christmas and should reach the abstraction point in Aliwal North by Saturday (2 January) after covering a distance of about 530 kilometres.
Diedricks said while the water is flowing, there is constant monitoring to assist in the decision to either increase or decrease the flow. She told SAnews.gov.za government departments are in the process of alerting communities in the downstream areas to ensure they are not taken by surprise when higher water levels are experienced. “It is important to ensure that no fatalities or destruction of property occur,” said Diedricks.”
Other areas of South Africa is also feeling the impact of the drought with large areas of the Free State’s agricultural areas in desperate need of rain.
In order for South Africa’s agricultural sector to grow there must be more education on food and an agricultural and health policy is needed.
According to the National Development Plan, South Africa wants to create a million jobs in agriculture by 2030, but this will not be easy, due to increased mechanisation, amongst other challenges, employment in the sector fell from 1.4 million people to 600,000 between 2000 and 2014.
To help boost this sector, the state plans on establishing agri-parks across the country, which will boost output and production. The department has been allocated R6 billion over the next three years for the project to boost agro-processing output and agricultural production. Farmers will own 70% of the parks.
Agricultural expert, Louise Fresco believes the boost also needs involvement from farmers and communities. However, one of South Africa’s main concerns is that there isn’t a next generation of farmers, as people are not interested in farming.
Fresco, also wants children to learn how seeds become a vegetable and school gardens are a great way to help educate children about the process of food and its safety.
Supermarkets should get involved with agricultural schemes which will increase production.