Professor Walter S. Alhassan, a Research Scientist, has bemoaned the seemingly lack of political will and commitment on the part of African leaders towards agricultural development.
He cited the recurrent low budgetary allocation for the sector, which had over the years thwarted efforts to enhance technological advancement and generation of new ideas.
“We have the scientists and availability of raw materials. What we lack as a continent is the cutting-edge technology needed to make new discoveries to underpin agricultural growth,” he said.
Prof Alhassan said this in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in Kumasi, on the side-lines of a workshop designed to bring clarity on genetically-modified (GM) technology activities in Ghana.
He said it was unfortunate that in most cases, the majority of agro-related programmes implemented in Africa were funded by foreign agencies.
“It is about time we put in our own resources so that such programmes will be sustainable,” he noted.
The Research Scientist, also a former Director-General of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), said with the increasing financial constraints being experienced globally it should not be business as usual.
In the 2017 and 2018 editions of the Africa Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reported that the prevalence of undernourishment was rising in the region.
The latest data shows that the deterioration has slowed, but there remains 256 million hungry people in Africa today.
The FAO further documented that although many African countries are making a headway towards reducing malnutrition, progress is too slow to meet six key nutrition targets, which form part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) monitoring framework and the World Health Assembly global nutrition targets.
Prof Alhassan warned that the Continent could miss out on achieving the elimination of hunger by 2030 – a situation which called for urgent measures to address the issues.
It was appropriate that the respective governments scaled up resources to agro-based institutions and agencies responsible for farming activities, he advised.
“We need to invest in research and technology transfer, thereby supporting the farmer to be more productive.”
Prof Alhassan, a biotechnology advocate, said agriculture in general had become more technological, therefore, attempts ought to be made to expose farmers to the modern trends in farming through capacity building.
The workshop brought together selected journalists in the Ashanti Region to discuss the status of work done on a GM product; the Pod Borer Resistant (PBR) Cowpea.
The PBR Cowpea is being developed by Ghanaian scientists at the Savannah Agricultural Research Institute of the CSIR, and is genetically engineered to be resistant to the Maruca pest.
The Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa organised the programme, in collaboration with the African Agricultural Technology Foundation and the CSIR.
By Stephen Asante/Florence Afriyie Mensah, GNA