Technology key to transform agriculture, says ex-Nigerian president

Former Nigeria president Goodluck Jonathan (centre) at Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi on Monday, October 30, 2023, during the African Conference on Agricultural Technologies (ACAT). [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has said that innovation must be part of re-shaping agriculture to enable farmers to adopt new approaches to overcome challenges that bedevil the sector.

Speaking during the official opening of the African Conference on Agricultural Technology (ACAT) in Nairobi on Monday, Jonathan noted that Africa is home to more than half (60 per cent) of the world's arable land, and yet the continent finds itself grappling with food insecurity, pests and diseases.

“Agricultural resilience and food security lies in the effective and innovative use of technology,” Jonathan said.

He added: “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. Firstly, innovation in agriculture is not optional; it's a necessity.”

The former president said that Africa is vulnerable to food inadequacy which further heightens high food imports which has been worsened by global shocks associated with COVID-19 and the Ukraine-Russian war that disrupted the global food supply chain.

He regretted that Africa has been devastated by these developments which have led to spiralling food prices.

"We cannot continue like this. We must match the inherent and abundant resources on the continent with agricultural prosperity with none left in hunger," he said.

Jonathan accepted to be the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) ambassador for Agricultural Technology which he hailed for having contributed significantly to Africa’s quest to improve her agricultural systems in the last 20 years.

Jonathan said that agriculture in the continent requires political will, investment, and commitment to the welfare of our people.

"It's about ensuring that no one goes to bed hungry and that the efforts of our hardworking farmers are rewarded," he said.

Charles Barchigei and his wife Emily Biwott at their maize farm at Cheptil in Nandi County on September 11, 2023. Food security continues to be a challenge in Africa despite massive opportunities. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

“If we handle agricultural resilience right, we shall move, as a continent, in placing agriculture in good stead and as a pedestal for economic recovery and prosperity,” he said.

Dr Canisius Kanangire, the new Executive Director of the AATF, said that ACAT was a culmination of two years of planning and long hours of consultation by dedicated teams at the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, AATF, and diverse partners at national, and regional
and international level.

Dr Kanangire noted that the journey towards revolutionizing agriculture through technology is a collective endeavour, guided by a shared vision and purpose.

“We eagerly anticipate the exchange of ideas, collaboration, and  innovation that will propel us towards our common objectives of ensuring food security, eradicating poverty and enhancing the well-being of our nation and our
planet,” he said

Kanangire said that AATF had facilitated access to innovative agricultural technologies worth over USD 650 million during its 20 years in operation, benefiting 4.8 million smallholder farmers in 24 countries including Kenya.

To facilitate the development, uptake, and use of advanced technologies, he said AATF actively works with country governments to negotiate and access technologies, structure public/private partnerships for development, adaptation and dissemination and contribute towards building an enabling environment for technology through knowledge sharing, advocacy and capacity strengthening.