Yet there is enormous potential for innovation to transform African agriculture, bringing jobs and strengthening food security. One leader driving this agenda is Debisi Araba, the dynamic regional director for Africa at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). In the interview below he explores technologies influencing agriculture on the continent, emphasizes disruption opportunities, and highlights that platforms can release the best of human ingenuity.
Lorin Fries: Where do you wish we could be making progress faster in African agriculture?
Debisi Araba: The biggest question is why we haven’t yet had a green revolution in Africa. Part of the explanation is inadequate funding, but it’s also about adopting an “agriculture as a business” approach. Agriculture is not about sustaining people just above the poverty line; it’s about turning them into entrepreneurs who can thrive, recognizing the potential for this sector to lift millions out of poverty. Agriculture is poised for a mushrooming of investment across the continent.
Fries: How do you see technology as relevant to your work?
Araba: Let’s start with production. We need to shift the focus away from calories and toward improved nutrition and health. That means introducing the right practices and varieties, using conventional breeding as well as breeding for micronutrients. It’s also critical to understand soil health. We look for technologies that improve on-farm decision-making, interfacing with databases like the African Soil Information Service.
On the consumption side, Africa is facing the triple burden of malnutrition — chronic hunger, malnutrition and obesity. Many talk about biofortification as a solution; that is just one of the pathways. We should be focused on technologies that can make the entire value chain nutrition sensitive, from smallholder farmers to big retailers.
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