Research and technology Knowledge

Posted July 1998


FAO/SPAAR/CTA/CSIR Expert Consultation on Technology Assessment and Transfer for Sustainable Development, Food Security and Poverty Alleviation in Sub-Saharan Africa

Accra, Ghana
23-27 March 1998


It is widely acknowledged that low agricultural productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa is the result of a combination of several factors including weaknesses in the structure, planning, management and evaluation of research programmes, exacerbated in most instances by gaps in the linkages between research, extension and the farmer.

To rectify the situation, FAO has been assisting Governments in developing countries, notably in Africa, to review their National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS). Since the 1980s, several of these countries have obtained development assistance from the World Bank and other international bilateral organizations for the development of National Agricultural Research Strategy Plans incorporating institutional strengthening, capacity building, nationally co-ordinated research, research management and research-extension-farmer linkages.

It is against this background, following the recommendations of the 13th FAO Regional Conference for Africa, held in Harare, Zimbabwe, in 1984, that FAO decided to promote the adoption of existing traditional and improved technologies as a means of obtaining large increases in food production to enhance national and regional food security. To achieve this prime objective, however, it was considered necessary to evolve a technology assessment and transfer mechanism, through case studies of broad agro-ecological zones in the region, with a view to its eventual application in virtually all the countries of the region.

This Expert Consultation was therefore convened by the FAO to gather information on lessons learnt in the field and experiences from case studies in Ghana, Senegal, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. These were complemented with desk case studies in Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and Malawi. The objective was to advise the FAO on the most appropriate and efficient means of enhancing the adoption of proven technologies for the production of national food staples for improved food security, poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability.

Within the framework of Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries (TCDC), the 5-day Consultation also benefited from the experiences of experts from the Near East and Latin America through plenary presentations, work group sessions and the collective collation of the proceedings to arrive at consensus-derived recommendations.

It is the hope of the FAO that this report and the recommended follow-up activities will provide useful material for periodic impact assessment of the generation and adoption of proven technologies, with emphasis on farmer participatory processes in accordance with the goals of the 1996 Rome Declaration on World Food Security and World Food Summit Plan of Action, which were also reflected in the recommendations made at the 20th FAO Regional Conference for Africa held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in February, 1998.

Bamidele F. Dada
Assistant Director-General and
Regional Representative for Africa

Executive summary

Background and overview

Arising from continuing declines in agricultural production of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), the FAO identified weak technology transfer as a major constraint in the quest for food security including the related factors of gainful employment, poverty alleviation and environmental conservation. Given the dominant role of agriculture (contributing up to 70% of GDP) in the national economies of the Region, and in consonance with the main thrusts of the 1996 Rome Declaration on World Food Security and World Food Summit Plan of Action, further buttressed by the outcome of the 1998 20th FAO Regional Conference for Africa held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, FAO has intensified efforts at evolving strategies, mechanisms and methodologies for the assessment of available technologies in the Region. In so doing, it commissioned assessment surveys in four agro-climatic/agro-ecozones, namely:

  1. the Humid and Sub-Humid Tropics of West and Central Africa, as typified by Ghana;
  2. the Sub-Humid and Highland Tropics of East and Central Africa, as typified by Uganda; the Semi-Arid Temperate Tropics of Southern Africa, as typified by Zimbabwe; and
  3. the Semi-Arid Tropics of Sudan-Sahelian Africa, as typified by Senegal.

The study, conceived in 1995 and conducted in 1996, was aimed at using bottom-up approach of data collection and consensus-building by agricultural development partners in the four pilot study countries, with emphasis on survey information generated from resource - poor small-scale farmers. To complement the field surveys, desk studies were commissioned in 1996/97 for Cameroon, Ethiopia, Malawi and Burkina Faso representing the four agro-ecozones respectively, with a view to testing the validity of the identified methods of assessment, using 12 thematic instruments and 3 categories of technology (available technologies that only need enabling environment for adoption; available technologies which need further adaptive research; new and emerging technologies of biotechnology and satellite information).

Expert consultation

After a preliminary review of the Field Case Studies, the FAO, in partnership with the Special Programme for African Agricultural Research (SPAAR), the Technical Centre for Rural Co-operatives (CTA) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research of Ghana (CSIR), convened this Expert Consultation, March 23-27, 1998, in Accra, Ghana. This is with the ultimate main objectives of recommending easily adaptable methodologies for the assessment of technologies based on experiences from case studies in the selected countries, enriched by knowledge of experiences in other Regions (Latin America and the Near East), and against the background of Farming Systems, Environmental Protection, People's Participation and Gender considerations, all towards food security and poverty alleviation.

The Consultation was attended by 43 participants representing 13 countries of Sub-Saharan Africa (Burkina Faso, Cameroon Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe); Egypt to represent the Near East Region; international organizations (FAO, OAU); international agricultural research centres: West Africa Rice Development Association (WAARDA), and the International Board for Soil Research and Management (IBSRAM), the Ghanaian Agricultural Research Private Sector (ARKLOYDS); a Ghanaian NGO, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA); and the Ghanaian National Association of Farmers and Fishermen (GNAFF).

Resolutions and recommendations

After 5 days of plenary presentations, a field trip and working group deliberations, the Expert Consultation arrived at its Resolutions and Recommendations as follows: 1. Recognised that there are real problems in the technology development, assessment and transfer system that impringe on the dissemination and adoption of technologies.

2. Observed that the methodologies used in the Country Field Studies did not fully address the identification of available technologies, technologies that need adaptation and new technologies within the prevailing agro-ecological zones and production/farming systems; in that Gender Issues were not incorporated into the studies.

3. Urged National Governments to allocate adequate funding for the support of their National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) and the Technology development and transfer system.

4. Advised that, while recognising the contributions of NGOs to emerging strategies for increasing food and agricultural production, their participation in technology assessment and transfer should be in concert with existing research and extension systems, so as to avoid conflicts and duplication of efforts.

5. Asserted the crucial need for ensuring enabling policy environment in the strategic areas of capacity building, institutional strengthening, research/extension delivery masterplan; and the macro-economic policies and subsidies, marketing and infrastructures by the National Governments.

6. Further asserted the requirement of the strategic incorporation of gender consideration and people participation in technology development assessment and transfer systems and processes.

7. Advocated the establishment by FAO, of a Network for Technology Assessment and Transfer in SSA, with national nodes and sub-regional co-ordination centres, backed by strong elements of the required hardware support base. 8. Further advocated the assessment of the National Agricultural Research and Extension System of Eastern and Southern Africa as a logical complement to that accomplished for West and Central Africa

Specific follow-up activities

In consonance with the Resolutions and Recommendations, the following are the identified critical follow-up activities:

1. Establishment of National and Sub-Regional Networks for technology assessment and transfer, with some key participants at the Consultation serving as contact persons for the nodes in their personal cognisance to ensure continuity, without prejudice to national official nominations.

2. Establishment of database on available technologies, technologies that need adaptation, and new technologies; particularly comparative network studies involving strategic commodities and activities including marketing in more countries in the respective agro-ecological zones.

3. Establishment and/or maintenance of Information Technology for Research Management and Technology Transfer to facilitate information exchange on knowledge and technologies within and between countries of the SSA.

4. Development of Guidelines, Methodologies, Indicators and Action Programmes for incorporating gender and people participation concerns in the overall assessment and transfer of technology.

5. The publication of the proceedings of the Consultation in edited book format as a vital FAO contribution to formal agricultural education curriculum inputs for Universities, Colleges, Faculties and Schools of Agriculture and Allied Disciplines.

6. Establishment of a timeframe for the urgent realisation of the objectives for the three categories of technology assessment and transfer as follows:

  1. available technologies (short-term), 2 - 3 years (1908 - 2001),
  2. technologies that need adaptation (medium-term), 3 - 5 years (1998-2003),
  3. emerging technologies (long-term), 5-8 years (1998-2005).

7. The implementation, by SSA National Governments of the funding of agricultural research to the level of a minimum of 1% of the Agricultural Domestic Gross Product (Ag GDP)

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