[Event Report] SAA-IFPRI-AFAAS Official Side Event for FAO Science and Innovation Forum “Multidimensional agricultural extension to support innovation: Experiences and lessons on building African farmers’ resilience to global crises”
On October 14, 2022, Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA), in collaboration with International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services (AFAAS), hosted an official FAO Science and Innovation Forum side event of under the theme "Multidimensional agricultural extension to support innovation: Experiences and lessons on building African farmers’ resilience to global crises.”
SAA President Dr. Makoto Kitanaka in his opening speech gave a historical briefing of SAA's agricultural extension services. Dr. Kitanaka said SAA has been advocating that not only promotion of technologies but also ensuring its adoption is important and the two has to go hand in hand. He pointed out that multidimensional approach to extension system and partnerships are indispensable in confronting the global crisis such as climate change and rapid price increase of commodity, especially fertilizer.
Dr. Selvaraju Ramasamy, Senior Agricultural Officer at Office of Innovation of FAO, in his keynote speech emphasized the potential of agricultural extension and advisory services, highlighting the importance of shifting from the narrow narrative focused on productivity and profitability to become innovative to support farmers 360 degrees. He also shared the FAO initiatives and stressed the need for systematic transformation and enacting law to improve service provision and tackle arising challenges and crises, which ensure "Leaving no one behind.”
IFPRI Senior Research Fellow, Dr. Kristin Davis made presentation on the status and vision of extension and advisory services in Africa. Dr. Davis pointed out that while agricultural extension is becoming increasingly digitalized, digital skills of extension staff are still lacking. Moreover, extension staff needs to acquire not only knowledge and skills in crop and agronomy, but also soft skills including communication skills that facilitate effective knowledge transfer and empowerment of farmers. She emphasized that extension’s future in Africa will require an upgrade.
Dr. Mel Oluoch, Strategic Partnership Director of SAA, shared an overview of a multidimensional agricultural extension in Africa in line with the SAA's strategy and approaches including: SAA’s capacity building program (SAFE) in partnership with 31 African universities and agricultural colleges, a platform to create employment for youth, women and people with special needs, and scaling up of technologies through digital transformation.
As a part of SAA’s experience sharing, four speakers presented their case stories: Dr. Gambo Abdulhamid (Deputy Country Director, SAA-Nigeria) presented a case study of the promotion of Urea Deep Placement technology in Nigeria, which greatly improves cost-effectiveness of urea in the face of fertilizer price increase, and Dr. Takashi Togami (CPS Technology Planning Department Deputy Director/ e-kakashi Business Director, SoftBank Corp.) gave a presentation on “e-kakashi,” an AI-powered solution that supports science-based agriculture, and shared successful examples in determining optimal harvesting timing for rice and optimal amount of water for irrigating potatoes based on the data collected from e-kakashi. Ms. Sakile Kudita (Research Fellow & Country Manager, Zimbabwe, HarvestPlus) shared HarvestPlus' experience in promoting biofortified crops in Africa. Ms. Kudita highlighted the situation of “hidden hunger” in the world and underlined the key role that extension plays to break adoption barriers of biofortified crops. Mr. Godfrey Mayambala (Center Manager, SAA supported Zirobwe Agaliawamu Agri-business Training Association (ZAABTA)) presented a success story of a pluralistic agricultural extension model in digitally-enabled private service provision. Mr. Mayambala introduced ZAABTA, a high-level farmer organization, which with 4,922 registered members including women and youth and offers services to over 20,000 farmers.
Following a lively Q&A session, in closing, AFAAS Secretary General Silim Nahdy thanked all the speakers for their informative and powerful presentations. He highlighted the importance of continuing such meaningful dialogue and expressed his hope to further strengthen partnerships for the common good.