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BIO Magazine - A BIOTECHNOLOGY STRATEGY FOR AFRICAN FOOD AND AGRICULTURE Δεκέμβριος 2015
Δεκέμβριος 2015 No38

BIO Agriculture

A BIOTECHNOLOGY STRATEGY FOR AFRICAN FOOD AND AGRICULTURE
A BIOTECHNOLOGY STRATEGY FOR AFRICAN FOOD AND AGRICULTURE

The present trends in Africa's perpetual food crisis, when viewed in the context of rapid population growth, cause concern as to the capacity of the African agricultural sector to meet present and future food production challenges in the region. Indeed, the food supply position is continuing to deteriorate at an alarming rate in several parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, where around 34 million people are threatened by severe food shortages and famine. All indications point to Sub-Saharan Africa's, already precarious food situation, deteriorating further in the future. Already, deaths from hunger, imminent massive starvation in the months ahead and acute malnutrition, are being increasingly reported in eastern Africa. According to FAO data, Sub-Saharan Africa's population is predicted to increase, at 3.3 % per annum, to 675 million by the year 2000. The total demand for all food and agricultural products is projected to rise by 3.5 % annually, between 1985 and 2000. In particular, the total demand for cereals, the most widely consumed group of commodities in Africa, is forecast to increase to 100 million tonnes by 2000. This would increase the deficit between domestic supply and demand to 17 million tonnes. The problem of malnutrition is also expected to remain severe, with the number of people in Sub-Saharan Africa below the 1.2 basal metabolic rate increasing from 105 million in 1985, to 137 million in 2000. These projections and forecasts clearly suggest the nature and magnitude of the food production challenges which African agriculture faces and substantiate the urgent need for determined efforts to combat the chronic food crisis which menaces millions of people. This can be achieved only by increasing agricultural productivity and the production of staple foods. In other words, there is a crucial need to introduce new and flexible systems and technologies to accelerate the environmental and sustainable development of agriculture in Africa. Can the experiences gained from the technologies of the "green" revolution provide useful lessons for the researchers and policy-makers who are to launch agricultural development in Africa, in order to meet its food self-reliance challenges without prejudicing to the environment? Today, some of those technologies which depend on high-input use have reached their limits and, in many cases, are not sustainable. Environmental degradation, resulting from deforestation, soil erosion and soil and water pollution, which is the result, inter alia, of the excessive and inefficient use of agrochemicals, and the effluents of agroprocessing, is further exacerbating the problem. Despite significant growth in agricultural production during recent decades, millions of people are still suffering from chronic malnutrition and hunger. This means that African countries should make their own decisions, with the improvement of their food production capabilities, by technologies and agricultural systems, as a primary goal, as to how to increase food production without damaging the environment. Such systems and technologies should take into account the fact that the efficient management and equitable use of Africa's diverse biological resources, with their variety of plants, micro-organisms and the ecological systems of which they are a part, provide the resource-base upon which any development, particularly agricultural development, is dependent. Although modern biotechnology holds considerable promise to meet these challenges, much of the current biotechnological research and development will not be applied to this end, as it is largely in the hands of transnational corporations which develop products for which there is an assured market and high economic returns. Unfortunately, Africa, with its perpetual food crisis and its serious economic difficulties, lacks the capacity to harness the potential of modern biotechnology. However, the grave food shortages afflicting millions of Africans require an urgent and solemn commitment, on the part of the international financial community, to create this capacity, in order to introduce new and adaptable biotechnology for accelerated food and agricultural development. This report examines the objectives and strategies for the use and development of biotechnology in Africa, in order to improve and increase agricultural productivity and food production on an environmental and sustainable basis.

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