Friday, 19 July 2013

Push meets pull in agricultural innovation

A female farmer examines her maize field after trying the push-pull strategy.
Farming, the oldest occupation on earth, is enjoying no shortage of modern technological advancement.
In my quest to locate a venue for a side event on Climate-Smart Agriculture during the 6th African Agriculture Science Week (#AASW6) in Accra, Ghana, there was Mrs. Susan Kariuki, fundraising coordinator for the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), welcoming me with open arms. I entered Executive Room 2 at the Accra International Conference Center, located a comfortable seat, and settled in for the session.
The moderator began addressing the attendees, and, ahh… it was then that I realized that I was in the wrong room. Dilemma set in: to leave, or not to leave? But Mrs. Kariuki had been so hospitable, and after all, I had promised my full participation…
I confess that although I am a youth, entrepreneur, broadcaster, and scholar in the field of agriculture, and even a farmer myself, this was the first time I had heard about ICIPE. Only three minutes into the presentation of the first speaker and my dilemma was resolved — the event was fascinating!
As I soon found out, an award winning (TWAS Prize, September 2012) programme is underway: The Adaptation and Dissemination of, the ‘PushPull‘ Technology (ADOPT) programme, a mechanism to improve the livelihoods of resource-poor farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa. Listen as Dr. Jimmy Pittchar, social scientist for the Push-Pull project, explains the technology in the following sound clip:
AASW6 Vuvuzela interview with Dr Jimmy Pittchar, Social Sciaentist – ‘PUSH-PULL’ Project, icipe 
The technology is meant to support the production of two highly prized staple foods in Africa: maize and sorghum. The ‘Push-Pull’ strategy is promising minimal attack from stem borers and striga weed and natural fixation of soil nitrogen, resulting in reduced production costs and better yields.
The target users of this technology are our smallholder farmers, the ones who are producing about 80% of Africa’s food. How do we make this technology accessible to them, right now?
Furthermore, how will the farmers embrace this cost effective method? How can we communicate the opportunity effectively?
Share with me your thoughts, and tell me whether the ‘Push-Pull’ strategy can help achieve the Africa feeding Africa agenda.
Blogpost by Nana Darko, a social media reporter for AASW6.