New Australian-African consortium formed to tackle food security challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa

2 April 2015

A new Australian-African consortium has been formed to focus on innovative agricultural research and enterprises in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

This consortium was formed during a multilateral workshop held in Nairobi on 23-24 February 2015. The workshop, funded by the Australia Africa Universities Network (AAUN, was led by Associate Professor Inakwu Odeh from the University of Sydney and Professor Nancy Karanja from the University of Nairobi.

Over 14 delegates from the University of Sydney, the University of Nairobi, Kenya, Southeast Kenya University, the Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology, Arusha Tanzania, IITA Dar es Salam Tanzania, the University of Ghana, Legon Ghana, the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria and the University of Agriculture, Makurdi, Nigeria met to brainstorm food security challenges and solutions for SSA.

Workshop participants
Workshop participants

Despite years of foreign aid, SSA still lags behind Asia and South America with low productivity, starvation, low global per capita GDP and a lack of finance.

Professor Odeh said, "It is important to recognise local African problems and the fact that Africans are best placed to solve them."

The meeting discussed the challenges posed by the issue of land rights across the SSA and observed the different stages of transition in land tenure systems from community titles to individual titles. In many cases, there is a need to work around the lack of implementation and certainty associated with capricious land reforms in SSA countries.

The importance of African Indigenous Traditional Knowledge (AITK) in building innovative solutions to SSA food security challenges was also highlighted. However, there is a lack of documentation of AITK and a risk of loss of such knowledge with every passing generation.

Examples of productive and environmentally friendly AITK include minimum tillage in the traditional Kikuyu practice known as "Gutahira" which improves soil organic matter and soil structure, and the use of water pans for harvesting water. The consortium will explore the practical aspects of AITK and how to combine it with modern precision agriculture technologies by adapting plot-specific farming, where each plot is treated according to its optimal needs and productive capacity.
The consortium will develop strategies to encourage youth involvement in agriculture to address the aging and declining African farming population and make recommendations on appropriate land holding systems for improved agricultural production in East and West Africa.

Contact: A/Prof Daniel Tan

Phone: 02 8627 1052

Email: 1c030f2715006d361914241b2c0e3f3f0344572736670a1b