Future Agriculture in Africa: Challenging but Hopeful

Hana Khanh's picture

With an interesting background as both a plant breeder and politician, minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security of Sierra Leone, Monty Jones talked about challenges in African agriculture but with great belief in the next generation of researchers.

Keynote Speaker Monty Jones

He shared with the audience his memory of witnessing riots over rice shortages when he was in secondary school. This experience was what pushed him to become a researcher, and ultimately creator of ‘"the New Rice for Africa (NERICA)’’. It is used all across Africa currently, and Monty Jones won the World Food Price in 2004. He is now a minister of Sierra Leone. Using himself as an example, he encouraged the young researchers in agriculture, "HOPE and DETERMINATION will take you very far’’.

In his speech, he gave a brief picture of the existing obstacles that Africa is facing in agriculture, such as underutilization of arable lands, roughly 40% of it is uncultivated, low use of technology, climate change, poor market infrastructure, and the challenges of urbanization. However, with an optimistic perspective on African agriculture, he mentioned many ways to overcome these challenges. He insisted on investing in information communication technology (ICT), and infrastructure to increase production and productivity.

Even though he addressed these challenges quite briefly, I felt positive about the future of agriculture in Africa. Guided by his strong belief, Monty concluded his speech emphasizing that "Agriculture is the proven path into inclusive economic growth, food security and poverty reduction’’. He hopes that Africa could become the bread basket of the world one day. Was it a bit ambitious or is it achievable? The answers are now in the hands of us, young agricultural researchers.


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