Speaking after a meeting with the Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki in Nairobi last week as the new chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), an organization whose aim is to alleviate poverty and hunger in Africa, former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan urged African farmers to strengthen links with scientists and research institutions as part of their efforts to boost food production.
He added that, whatever the potential future benefits of genetically modified (GM) crops, conventional seed breeding still represents an important path towards a ‘green revolution’ in Africa and a decrease in Africa’s dependence on food aid.
‘As we speak, many people in Africa are receiving food donations. This is however not sustainable,’ he said. ‘We need to get the right seeds into [the farmer’s] hands by strengthening research partnerships with local universities and other institutions.’
Annan announced that AGRA will be based in Nairobi, and President Kibaki ensured his country’s support for the alliance and for the research community. Annan added that, over the next four years, the AGRA project will seek to develop hardier conventional seeds, improving soil health, use of fertilizers and water management, and strengthening agricultural markets. The alliance will pay special attention to the problems of small-scale farmers.
‘Science is evolving. We do not know what science will offer us in ten or twenty years. However, our programs will not involve GM seeds,’ he promised.
Annan stressed the importance of science and technology to small-scale farmers. ‘The cell phone revolution has come to rural Africa, and farmers can now use their cell phones to get real-time market information,’ he explained.