How African universities and research institutions can facilitate agricultural development.

Author:Abdullah, M.
Position:Communique
 
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Good agricultural research underpins successful agricultural production. Efforts should be made to expand agri-universities and research institutes in Africa.

Universities have helped with advances in agriculture in many parts of the world. The countries that have a strong agricultural sector usually also have good agricultural universities and agri-research institutions.

This article therefore focuses on the need to have strong agricultural universities and agri-research institutions across Africa to provide a sustainable foundation on which the agricultural sector can rely for improved production.

A university's stature is built on a high standard of work that will include peer-reviewed, published, original research. This focus on credible research attracts serious research students and global collaboration. These efforts will cost money and therefore countries will need innovative public-private financing structures to make it happen.

Just as for universities, the ways to establish successful research institutions are well known; there are plenty of role models for this. It could start by establishing clear research objectives and finding the long-term resources to finance them. Many African crops (for example, cocoa, cotton, cashew, oil palm, coconut) could be improved in terms of yield, quality and income for the farmers.

The Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) provides a good model for a coordinated network of research establishments that could serve the needs of African agriculture. The following would be important areas for research: corn, tubers, cocoa, cotton, the large-scale plantation sector, forestry, animal husbandry, fish farms, sustainable irrigation, pest and disease prevention and control.

A network of well-funded and collaborating research centres could take full advantage of shared resources while also ensuring that every region in Africa has some form of agri-research centre. There is a strong natural, collaborative impact through neighbourhood contact--having a speciality institution that can be directly useful to neighbouring countries and communities.

It would be important to ensure that the research centres keep to their original aims to bring improvements and keep in touch with practice on the ground. There might be a risk over time of operating in isolation and becoming irrelevant to the farmers and growers, while expenses would still be incurred. The same risks would apply to...

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