Adesoji Adegbulu

New African Agricultural Innovation Center

Agricultural Innovation Center

A new ​Agricultural ​Innovation ​Center ​that will help ​African countries promote ​innovation in ​the agricultural ​sector to ​combat rural ​poverty and ​hunger has been ​inaugurated. The Green ​Innovation ​Center, which ​was inaugurated ​at AfricaRice ​in Benin, aims ​to boost ​agricultural ​productivity, ​increase the ​incomes of ​smallholder ​farmers and ​create job ​opportunities, ​particularly ​for youth and ​women in Benin, ​Burkina Faso, ​Cameroon, ​Ethiopia, Ghana,​ Kenya, Malawi, ​Mali, Nigeria, ​Togo, Tunisia ​and Zambia. ​

The Agricultural ​Innovation ​Center is ​supported by ​the Federal ​German Ministry ​for Economic ​Cooperation and ​Development (​BMZ), in ​partnership ​with other ​institutions ​such as Benin ​Ministry of ​Agriculture, ​Livestock and ​Fisheries, and ​AfricaRice.​

BMZ has given ​2.7 million ​euros (almost ​US$3 million) ​to AfricaRice ​to implement ​the centre’s ​activities in ​2016 and 2017, ​according to ​Bernard Marc ​Winfried, a ​knowledge ​management ​specialist at ​AfricaRice. ​

Gerd Müller, ​minister for ​BMZ, said ​during the ​inauguration ​that agriculture ​does not only ​need water and ​fertiliser but also ​knowledge and ​innovation. ​

Wilfried ​added that in ​Benin the ​initiative will ​facilitate the ​exchange of ​knowledge and ​interaction ​between ​researchers and ​development ​experts in 17 ​communities. ​
He explained ​that the centre ​will focus on ​strengthening ​the agricultural ​innovation ​system by ​promoting ​partnerships ​and developing ​an operational ​framework for ​innovation. ​

According to ​Winfried, ​researchers ​will develop a ​set of services ​and innovation ​that will serve ​as youth ​training tools ​and help ​increase ​sustainable ​productivity ​and incomes of ​agricultural ​producers. ​

“The main gap ​that the centre ​seeks to close ​is the low ​capacity of the ​present ​extension ​service. The ​activities will ​decisively ​improve access ​for farmers and ​traders to ​advisory, ​technical and ​business ​development ​services,” ​Winfried says. ​

David ​Arodokoun, the ​director-​general of ​National ​Agricultural ​Research ​Institute of ​Benin, praises ​the creation of ​the centre, ​noting that the ​centre could ​address hunger ​and aid growth ​because “a ​development ​without ​innovation ​technology is a ​blind ​development”. ​

Arodokoun adds that African countries have not understood and managed to develop innovative technologies, and hopes the centre could also help create innovations that are friendly to the environment and can address climate change-related impacts.

Winfried tells SciDev.Net that the new centre will initially focus on four key commodities — rice, soybeans, small ruminants and poultry — but is open to work on other commodities upon request.

As in many African countries, rice is a staple food for the people of Benin and the demand is growing rapidly, and the country produced 150,000 tonnes in 2015, Winfried says, adding that despite the increased rice production Benin still imports more than 50 percent of rice consumed in the country.

According to AfricaRice, through the development of lowlands and irrigated areas and the adoption of improved varieties and technologies, Benin has the potential to increase domestic production and to diminish its dependency on rice imports.

This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.