Calestous Juma observes tissue culture propogation of bananas at a genetics technology lab in Nairobi, Kenya.
"Agricultural Innovation in Africa: Addressing Climate-Smart Growth"
Author: Beth Maclin, Former Communications Assistant, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
The Belfer Center's new Agricultural Innovation in Africa project will work to address the dual challenges of climate change and food shortages with the help of a generous grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The project, directed by Harvard Kennedy School's Professor of the Practice of International Development Calestous Juma, seeks to engage with policy makers and focus information dissemination on efforts to align science and technology missions and operations with agricultural development goals in Africa's Regional Economic Communities. It is part of the larger agenda to promote regional economic integration.
"The initiative is necessary because of the worsening food situation in Africa and the rise of new threats to agriculture such as climate change," said Juma. "The timing is critical: there is greater recognition among African leaders of the importance of innovation in economic development today than was the case a decade ago. Advancing regional innovation strategies is better done in the early stages of the continent's regional integration efforts. Such cooperation," he said, "will benefit from the growing efforts among African countries to integrate their economies and create larger markets."
The project continues the work published in "Freedom to Innovate: Biotechnology in Africa's Development," which Juma and Ismail Serageldin co-authored and is based on the work done by the High Level African Panel on Modern Biotechnology. The panel, comprised of people from both in and outside of Africa, was established by the African Union and the New Partnership for Africa's Development to provide independent advice on biotechnology. The panel's main recommendations include the need for individual countries in central, eastern, western, northern and southern Africa to work together at the regional level to scale up the development of biotechnology.
"Advancing climate-smart growth strategies will demand new diplomatic leadership," Juma wrote recently. "[Africa] will need to respond regionally through a broad range of measures aimed at sustaining human health, agriculture, energy, water supply, tourism, and many other vital sectors.
"Most of Africa's states lack the flexibility to respond to major ecological upheavals," he said. "They need room to [maneuver] and can achieve it by integrating their economies into regional groupings."
Juma plans to publish a book and host an executive training workshop that will inform policy leaders on options for action, not simply the challenges that they face, in bringing science and technology to bear on agriculture and economic development. There is also a conference planned for mid-2010.
A new blog on the Belfer Center web site, "Agricultural Innovation," features posts by Juma on agriculture in Africa as the foundational sector for the continent's economic future. In his second entry, Juma takes a look into the future of climate change and reveals disruptions that will take on wartime proportions. He believes responses must come at the regional level and match the enormity of the challenge at hand. "The best way to avert political turmoil is to act in time and treat the situation as a state of emergency. That means now."
For more information about this publication please contact the Belfer Center Communications Office at 617-495-9858.
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