Former Nigerian President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has urged African leaders to prioritise the application of technology in agriculture as a means of bridging current production gaps and fast tracking the attainment of self-sufficiency in food production on the continent.
Dr. Jonathan described innovation as the bedrock of all transformative change and emphasized that embracing innovative technologies in agriculture would foster resilience and help address food insecurity.
The former President who stated this in his keynote speech on Tuesday at the maiden African Conference On Agricultural Technologies (ACAT) holding in Nairobi, Kenya, also noted that such innovations would empower farmers, improve yields, and boost income.
The former President said: “Innovation must be part of our resolute course to re-shaping our agricultural outlook that should help our farmers to ably adopt new approaches to effectively withstand or overcome the myriad of challenges that currently bedevils the sector. It is by being creative and innovative that we as a people and a continent can bestow on ourselves a well secure food, nutrition and economic prosperity.
“Africa has made significant strides in accessing and adopting technology, but there is still much more to be done. We must invest in research and development, integrate cutting-edge science in the development of advanced innovative technologies to enhance precision agriculture, biotechnology, and digital platforms that connect farmers with knowledge and skill from planning through production to markets.”
The President further referenced Thomas Malthus, the 18th Century English economist, who posited that the exponential growth of human population when compared to what he referred to the arithmetic progression in food supply posed a serious threat to human survival. Dr. Jonathan however noted that scientists have proved that Malthus was not correct, adding that his doomsday prediction has been averted because of the application of technology in agriculture.
He insisted that Africa needs to adopt technology in agriculture not just to be able to feed the people of the continent but also to be able to process its produce for export and economic growth.
Dr. Jonathan who is a goodwill ambassador of African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) also noted that inclusivity in innovation is crucial for equitable development and growth in the sector, adding that “the youth, in particular, must be encouraged to see agriculture as a viable, modern, and profitable career.”
While highlighting the importance of technology in large scale agriculture, the former President however made a case for the production of simple implements for small holder farmers who, he noted, remain a key factor in African agriculture and employment generation.
“Our smallholder farmers, who make up the backbone of our agriculture, should not be left behind. Innovations should be tailored to suit the needs of these farmers and address their concerns. Resources, both financial and technological, should be made accessible to these farmers to also allow them to innovate, to invent and to participate in economic development more usefully.”