Science Agenda for Agriculture in Africa: A New Opportunity for Young Agripreneurs

Oluwabunmi Ajilore


Young agricultural entrepreneurs in Africa must rise to the challenge to domesticate and draw inspiration from the Science Agenda for Agriculture in Africa (referred to as S3A or The Science Agenda). The Science Agenda was developed by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) under the auspices of the African Union Commission and the New Economic Partnership for Africa’s Development Planning and Coordination Agency and many other stakeholders in agricultural research and innovation. It is a game-changer that puts science at the foreground in the transformation of agriculture in Africa.

S3A takes the center stage at the 7th Africa Agriculture Science Week and FARA General Assembly in Kigali, Rwanda, where stakeholders must “take stock of their collective achievements over the past three years and draft a common agenda along with modalities for achieving their collective targets over the next three years.” The Science Agenda follows in the tradition of the Framework for African Agricultural Productivity, the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), and other collective action-oriented plans crafted in many diverse places within and outside Africa. This is an opportunity for young agricultural entrepreneurs to shape the development landscape, and counter wrong stereotypes associated with African agriculture.

The Science Agenda in a nutshell

According to FARA, there are seven strategic thrusts in S3A: (a) an enduring vision for science in agriculture by Africa; (b) implement CAADP in the short-to-the-medium term; (c) research themes that connect institutions and policies with the producers, consumers and entrepreneurs; (d) strengthening institutional systems of science for agriculture in Africa; (e) sustainable financing of science and technology; (f) creating a favourable policy environment for the performance of science; and (g) establishing a fund to promote African solidarity in science. To deliver on the Science Agenda, each of these strategic thrusts demands experimenting with a diverse set of science-based approaches from among the stakeholders in various disciplines to realise agricultural transformation.

The Science Agenda is clear that agricultural transformation in Africa will not happen without realizing the potential of women and young people. Young people are bringing new insights to the realization of agricultural transformation as observed in the many thoughtful contributions and especially in the work of the Tony Elumelu Foundation with agricultural entrepreneurs.

Another principle treasured in S3A is the catalytic powers of science and technology, in transforming the agriculture sector. Science and technology, with adequate investments, opens new frontiers for young agricultural entrepreneurs, to uncover the potential of food systems to drive economic transformation in Africa.

Connecting science to stakeholder initiatives

The Science Agenda is not exclusive and neither does it claim originality in terms of the specific issues it suggests for agriculture in Africa to succeed. Synergies are needed among technical excellence, wider stakeholder buy-in, strong political commitment for its adoption and implementation, and the critical human resource to champion the ideas in the plans. This will require young people to use their creativity and imagination to discover new possibilities.

There are global and continental initiatives already addressing some of the issues proposed in the Science Agenda. For example, the Ecosystems Based Adaptation for Food Security in Africa (EBAFOSA), a novel continental policy platform, primarily works to promote ecosystem-based approaches derived from science, in the service of agriculture and the natural environment. Proponents for EBAFOSA argues that ecosystem approaches will significantly reduce the amount of potential food lost, boost Africa’s productivity, and assist in the efforts to reduce climate change.

These noble goals are preserved in the strategic thrusts of the Science Agenda especially in the research and development actions that are most likely to bring about this change. The success of EBAFOSA remains critical to assessing the ease with which new ideas are taken up within the continent.

An example of a global initiative which supports science partnerships, processes, and systems of innovations to reach and impact on the desired beneficiaries is the Global Forum for Agricultural Research (GFAR).

GFAR recognizes in its latest Charter a number of key elements required in transforming agricultural research and innovation systems: (a) inclusively defining research and innovation priorities and actions, driven by development needs; (b) developing and fostering equitable partnerships among all stakeholders; (c) advocacy to achieve the increased investments required to meet development needs; (d) developing essential human and institutional capacities to meet the needs of today and the future; (e) embedding innovation in development programmes and policies; and (f) including and involving stakeholders, in particular smallholder farmers, in the accountability and value of systems used.

The Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)’s emerging work in Improving Nutrition Outcomes Through Optimised Agricultural Investments (ATONU) is another example which in the final analysis feeds directly into the Science Agenda. ATONU, a project integrating nutrition interventions and agricultural investments, asks pertinent questions and seeks to address them in a holistic manner using the opportunities that exists in agricultural value chains and the human resource pool.

FANRPAN through ATONU also prioritises women of childbearing age and young children in rural households, where the high nutritional demands of pregnancy, development and early childhood must be met through food grown, or income earned on family farms. These three examples, though not exhaustive of the many exciting initiatives found on the planet, points to the unique opportunities that S3A can bring to its stakeholders so that they shape the future they want. They reinforce the idea that even though innumerable problems exists, it is what the stakeholders can do to create a new narrative that counts, and that’s what young agricultural entrepreneurs should focus on in any way possible.

Relevance of the Science Agenda for Agriculture in Zimbabwe

The Science Agenda is very much relevant to agriculture in Zimbabwe. S3A is likely to resonate with the country’s leadership, researchers, and practitioners given the propensity to possess own guiding frameworks by the country’s leadership, researchers, and practitioners. By definition, S3A is Africa owned and Africa-driven. The Science Agenda contributes to the realization of Agenda 2030 and Agenda 2063, by far, two of the dominant frameworks in our time. Second, S3A emphasizes the crucial role of agriculture in economic transformation, an idea captured in the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable and Socio-Economic Transformation (ZIMASSET).

ZIMASSET puts a case primarily for four clusters to transform the country, among them, food security and nutrition. The objective in ZIMASSET and many other research agendas by the country’s higher education and agricultural sciences institutions is to have a food secure Zimbabwe which is prosperous, peaceful, and independent of any unclear foreign maneuvers. Third, the Science Agenda is implicit in the fact that there will be constructive differences in implementation at country level.

The stakeholders in agricultural research and innovations must, as a matter of principle, collaborate to realise the outcomes they envision. They would also need to be constantly checking how well they are aligned to the country-level frameworks. Closely related to the differences in implementing actions is the fact that they are other communities drawing inspiration from science to transform various sectors of the economy. The broad-based UNESCO Report “Mapping Research and Innovation in the Republic of Zimbabwe” is a case in point, which offers opportunities for the country’s human resource to think and act in new ways.

Perhaps, the single important insight from S3A to African countries is the power to harness collective action towards agricultural transformation. There is room for Zimbabwe’s agriculture sector to rise above mediocre in order to be among game-changer sectors in Africa. More research is needed in this regard to harness this power of collective action so as to equip the country’s young agricultural entrepreneurs. Harnessing this collective knowledge and skills in the service of agricultural transformation will require that young agricultural entrepreneurs become free-spirited, push the frontiers of discovery, and test out the new ideas noted in the Science Agenda.

Blogpost by Raymond Erick Zvavanyange,  zvavanyanger3(at)gmail.com, #AASW7 social reporter. This post was originally published on “Rural Reporters
This post represents the author’s views only.

 Photo courtesy Bernard Chiketo

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CTA is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU.