Easily Accessible Agriculture Data Could Boost Africa's Development

Africa needs to refocus research thinking and agenda on the continent for agriculture to become productive and aid development.

According to panellists at a SciDev.Net event organised in conjunction with the UK-based International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications on 01 March 2014 in Nigeria, research is necessary for agricultural growth in Sub-Saharan Africa but it needs to be demand-driven and shared for impacts.

Ngozi Odiaka, a crop scientist at the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi in Nigeria, notes that research is key in generating data necessary for policy-making and the end users such as farmers.

“The problem we have today in Nigeria and in most of Africa is that a lot of research studies have been done but majority of [the findings] are getting grey in the shelves of our universities and other research institutes,” said Odiaka.

Odiaka added that it is vital that such information is stored centrally for easy access and use.

According to Odiaka, it is also necessary for African researchers to align research with the needs of farmers and consumers to help develop the continent.

“We need a platform where all these crucial groups can meet to ensure that research studies are not duplicated but are shared among institutions, farmers and even with the private sector,” Odiaka added.

Edwin Idu, a lecturer at the Faculty of Agricultural Economics and Extension, University of Abuja, Nigeria, says that most African farmers hardly take up the research outputs from the universities.

“Farmers are not in a hurry to apply the information from the universities through the extension workers. Majority will wait to see the results from early adopters of such innovations,” Idu adds.

Idu decries the lack of adoption of improved crop varieties by farmers.
According to Idu, proper monitoring and follow-ups by researchers could make research play meaningful impact on Africa’s agriculture.

Andrew Ilo, a research scientist from the Sheda Science and Technology Complex in Nigeria, adds that the continent needs modern research for development. “We should identify the gaps in agriculture in Africa and do research that will fill those gaps,” Ilo explains.

Certain pertinent issues, Ilo says, must be addressed if research is to advance agricultural development in Africa, citing a need to build capacity of agricultural human resources and more doctoral studies that focus on agricultural research.

Ilo adds that university lecturers should have a conducive environment such as having reduced teaching responsibilities to help them conduct more research.

According to Sonigitu Ekpe-Aji, a Project Desk Officer with Cross River State Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources of Nigeria, scientists should not just publish for the shelves but carry out citizen-driven research. “Citizen-driven research is what Africa needs now.”

He says this is possible if bodies such as Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition are allowed to play a key role in Africa agriculture and nutrition.

According to him, a lot of continental commitments are not translated into practice at the national level.

Cover Image, Cattle on a Shonga Farm | Salamanda1