Africa and Brazil to cross-fertilise agricultural ideas

The Africa–Brazil research initiative aims to boost African agriculture Copyright: Flickr/CIAT/Neil Palmer

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[OUAGADOUGOU, BURKINA FASO] An ambitious development partnership aimed at strengthening agricultural collaboration between Africa and Brazil was launched at the 5th African Agriculture Science Week in Burkina Faso last week (21 July).

The initiative — the Africa-Brazil Agriculture Innovation Marketplace — recently announced in Brazil, and now formally launched, aims to enhance South–South knowledge and technology transfer and stimulate policy dialogue between the two regions.

It will also promote collaborative research projects, according to Paulo Duarte, technical coordinator at Embrapa, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation. He told SciDev.Net that funding for joint project proposals with Embrapa for the coming two years will be approved at a meeting in Brazil in October. Up to seven projects will be selected from more than 40 proposals already submitted.

"Innovation cannot happen without development," said Monty Jones, co-chair of the new marketplace and executive director of the Forum for Agriculture Research in Africa (FARA), which signed a memorandum of understanding with Embrapa, formalising the marketplace launch at the event in Burkina Faso.

Africa has the potential to be the world’s food basket, said Jones, but poor technology and innovation adoption remain a constraint. This would be greatly improved with better exchange of science and technology knowledge, he said.

Jones praised the Africa–Brazil initiative as a major step towards improving knowledge and innovation to boost African agriculture. He said Africa had developed some promising technologies, such as banana tissue culture and New Rice for Africa, but too many other technologies remained on the shelf or had made little impact because of poor dissemination of information.

"Brazil has come a long way to feed its people because of an innovative approach to science and technology," said Duarte. "Working with Brazil, Africa should not reinvent the wheel but adopt some of these methodologies to catalyse its agricultural development."

In May this year, Brazil invited ministers and officials from more than 30 African countries to a meeting, ‘Brazil-Africa Dialogue on Food Security, Combating Hunger and Rural Development’, organised by the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Relations, where the marketplace was first announced.

The marketplace website, where researchers can find partners, ‘match-make’ and apply for collaborative research funding, is now live. Apart from Embrapa and FARA, partners include the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the Department for International Development in the United Kingdom, the World Bank, and African national and sub-regional agricultural research and development organisations.