Driving a sustainable green revolution in Africa will need high-level human capital, drawn from its own scientists. But the production of scientists urgently requires functional, relevant and consistent tertiary education institutions, says a recent policy briefing by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, AGRA.
\”African universities have been neglected for decades and are now all too often non-functional institutions with dilapidated infrastructure, unmotivated staff and poor learning environments,\” says the briefing released last month.
The policy brief, entitled Placing Agricultural Tertiary Education in the Policy Agenda, was written by president of AGRA, Ndamanga Ngongi.
He says the number of agricultural researchers in Africa has been cut in half over the last 20 years. Africa compares poorly to the 2,640 agricultural researchers per million people in North America. The continent only has 70 agricultural researchers per million people.
Mozambique only has 488 high-level agricultural workers. Ghana has about 2,000 trained agricultural workers, a figure which falls short of the country\’s target of 6,535.
Most governments and university research systems in Africa are producing only a trickle of new technologies that can be used by farmers, says Ngongi.
He partly blames donors who made major investments during the 1960s to 1980s to provide training abroad for African scientists. Little or no funding for infrastructure development and the brain drain, hastened the decline of universities.
\”The advantages of training scientists in Africa include lower costs, better retention of graduates in the region, relevant instructional focus and context, research projects that provide benefit to the region, and maintenance of students\’ institutional and family ties,\” the report says.
\”Investments in agricultural education and training enable research, extension and commercial agriculture to generate higher incomes for farmers. Improving tertiary education systems must therefore be high on Sub-Saharan Africa\’s development agenda.\”
AGRA, which was established with funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2006, works across Africa assisting small-scale farmers and their families boost farm productivity and incomes for the poor while safeguarding the environment.
It is currently supporting the advanced training of more than 200 scientists in 14 African universities, specialising in plant breeding, integrated soil fertility management, and applied agricultural economics. AGRA is also investing in improving the infrastructure of selected universities as well as the quality and relevance of their curricula.