The time is ripe to revolutionise agriculture in Africa, says World Food Prize winner Gebisa Ejeta, writing in Science.
When the Green Revolution swept across Asia in the 1960s, Africa had neither the human and institutional capacity, nor the right crops — the Green Revolution focused on wheat and rice, while African staples are sorghum, millet, maize and cassava — to benefit, says Ejeta. But times are changing.
There is a growing interest in improving Africa's staple crops. Research collaborations with international scientists are yielding crops and technologies relevant to the continent, such as drought-resistant sorghum and biological controls for cassava pests.
And some countries seem committed to strengthening human capacity and institutional infrastructure for agricultural research.
Kenya and Uganda, for example, are prioritising agricultural education and encouraging private-sector investments in agriculture. And Ethiopia has invested heavily in agricultural research and development, supporting a "large army" of agricultural extension officers.
Ejeta points to Malawi as a prime example of strong leadership yielding impressive results. The government's commitment to subsidise fertilisers and improved seeds has boosted farm productivity considerably.
He says science-based agriculture in Africa still requires external support to develop locally-led and locally-relevant solutions, build institutional capacity and support national leadership — but Ejeta remains optimistic that "an African Green Revolution can be a reality".