Thursday, 18 February 2010

Interview with Dr. Tabo on the possibilities to increase productivity

9 February 2010Frankfurter Rundschau, 66. Jahrgang Nr. 33 R/S. Ramadjita Tabo is Assistant Director of "Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa. (FARA) 

Mr Tabo, why is it that the existing know-how hardly reaches the farmers?

Most African farmers can not read or write. Few have access to computers or to Internet. And since they are often not English nor French speakers they may need information in local languages. We might use local radio programs. Increasingly mobile phones also help to spread information quickly. 

What are the results of the agronomic Research in Africa which is already available or will be available in the near future? 

The NERICA rice has at least in West Africa already to good harvests. In West and East Africa we also have newly developed varieties of corn. They deliver in a short time high yields. I see great potential in Sorghum and millet. They are already well adapted to drought and high temperatures. But we still need much shorter growing seasons without much loss in production and yields. 

The next among the list of crops with great potential are the pulses like peanut and cow pea. They are fundamental components of African agricultural production. Biotechnology plays here an important role. I do not mean the genetic modification of organisms, but cell culture methods which can help us to have relatively quickly the desired properties to produce higher yields. Conventional Breeding takes often too long. 

Where have most of the African agricultural research scientists who work in African institutions been trained? 

Most have studied in Africa, but they can often only get higher degrees like Masters or Ph.D. in Europe or in in America. 

How can studies abroad integrate the transmission of African knowledge and practices in the African scientific and educational system?

The so-called sandwich scholarships programmes are helpful because the students study abroad but for the practical component they work in research stations in Africa, to collect data and perform measurements. 

What about the financing of research institutes?

This is really a problem. You can not work for the long term, as long as you depend on external donors. Projects may run three years, then end. But the farmers want to know how it continues. The states should see its scientific institutions as assets and invest in them. If you are not investing in agricultural sciences you will not solve Africa's problems.  I don't want to be controversial  but I think that often the political will lacks.

Reference: Interview: Sabine Suetterlin Frankfurter Rundschau, 66. Jahrgang Nr. 33 R/S.