Innovation, collaboration essential to food security — Speakers
Speakers at the inaugural agricultural innovation for Africa (AIA) conference have said innovation, collaboration and sustainable practices are essential tools to ensure food security, safety and sovereignty in Africa.
They also mentioned land accessibility, digital technology, as well as gender and youth participation in agriculture as critical requirements for food security on the continent.
The two-day conference, organised by Kosmos Innovation Centre (KIC), a non-profit organisation at the University of Professional Studies, Accra, brought together key decision makers in agriculture -- experts, professionals, industry stakeholders and value chain actors to deliberate on the future of agricultural innovation, youth employment and food security in Africa.
The theme for the conference was: “Empowering youth start-ups and agri-MSMEs in Africa: Advancing food security through innovation and collaboration.”
Among topics discussed were impact of government policies on growth and sustainability of agri-MSMEs and youth-led startups, challenges, solutions and opportunities in the agricultural supply chain, and attracting the youth into agriculture.
In attendance were the national Programme Coordinator for International Trade Center and the Netherlands Trust Fund Phase V, Isaac Newton Acquah, Country Director for IDH Ghana, Robert Asugre, and Country Manager of AGRA Ghana, Juliette Lampoh-Agroh.
Speaking at the conference, the Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture, Yaw Frimpong Addo, said challenges and opportunities in the sector required robust long-term sustainable programmes and collaboration among all stakeholders.
“The challenge of climate change, land access, gender and youth participation in agriculture, production and productivity, as well as storage and access to market, provide an opportunity to re-evaluate the role technology and innovation can play in achieving food security outcomes.”
Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture, Yaw Frimpong Addo speaking at the event
The Managing Partner at Fbridge International, Baba Adongo, said food systems were under pressure in the face of population growth leading to reduction in the supply of natural resources, thus, putting the livelihoods of many people at stake.
During a comprehensive monitor presentation on food systems in Africa, he also mentioned poverty, war, civil strives, economic downturn, natural disasters, pandemic, climate change, food loss and food waste, as well as poor agricultural practices as some of the challenges affecting food systems.
“10 per cent of the global population is food insecure and in Africa this is estimated at 20 per cent but to make our food systems more sustainable will depend on innovative tools and approaches being developed and deployed in Africa and around the world,” he suggested.
He was of the view that food systems innovation needed a broad and inclusive approach and must be anchored on the following: Protecting and respecting the right of all stakeholders, particularly the most vulnerable, to participate fairly in decision-making about food systems; having positive social and environmental impacts by adopting nature-positive and sustainable approaches while ensuring equitable livelihoods; and building a vibrant, agile, consumer-centric approach that supports the development of a more just and inclusive innovation ecosystem at scale.
To transform food systems through innovations, he said collaboration was needed because it would lead to the adoption of more sustainable agricultural practices, reduced environmental impact, improved animal welfare, and enhanced food safety standards.
“Government institutions, the private sector, development organisations, research organisations, universities, financial and start-ups can transform the entire food system by working collaboratively across the value chain,” Mr Adongo said.
The Board Chairman of KIC, Mr Joe Mensah, said Kosmos Energy, the main sponsors of the conference, was committed to supporting the growth of the agricultural sector.
“For Kosmos Innovation Center, the strategic vision is to provide young people with tools, skills and capacity-building to identify these opportunities, while linking them to potential investors to scale up,” he said.
“The adoption of digital technologies for Africa’s agriculture will translate into increases in farmers’ income, increases in agricultural output, government savings and effective management of food security and agricultural transformation,” Mr. Mensah said.
In his welcome address, the Executive Director of KIC, Benjamin Gyan-Kesse, said Africa’s youthful population and vast natural resources offered unparalleled opportunities for growth and prosperity, adding that the agricultural sector held the key to unlocking that potential.
“The vision of a thriving agricultural sector, capable of feeding its people sustainably, fostering economic growth, and preserving our environment, is not beyond our reach. It merely requires us to pool our collective wisdom, channel our creativity, and invest in the innovative minds of today and tomorrow,” Mr. Gyan-Kesse said.
Some of the participants commended the organisers for the initiative which they said was very enlightening and inspirational and called for more of such events to lure more of the youth into agriculture.
“It’s been exciting listening to the presentations from the various resource persons. I have learnt that there is a lot they are doing to support the youth in agriculture. One of them also indicated that there is the need to collaborate and share information for industry players to know how well they can take advantage of available packages. It’s been good,” said Mohammed Abdul Jafaru from Olan Foods Ingredient Ghana.
A Level 400 Agricultural Science student from University of Ghana, Rosemary Akrong said: “This is a very good programme because it will equip the youth to go into agriculture because everything we do in our lives is more of agriculture ranging from the food we eat to the clothes we wear yet most of the youth don’t like farming, but I think with such conferences, many people would love to take farming as a profession.”
“A friend introduced me to the conference and since I came, I have grabbed some opportunities from here and I think this is encouraging for us as youth. There were discussions on planting, packaging and marketing of farm products which were very educative so it has been a good conference and we hope to see more of these involving the youth,” said Benjamin Ackah, a farmer and entrepreneur from Akyem Nsawam.
Princess Ibrahim, a Business Administration graduate from UPSA had this to say: “I found some business ideas from the various presentations, especially with bring up organic weedicides and how to market it. This is a good initiative and I feel involved as a youth, Generally, it has been insightful.”