Sustainable agricultural production based on practices and technologies adapted to local conditions is key to ensuring food security in Africa and around the world, FAO Assistant Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said today in Des Moines.
“For agriculture, we cannot start with one-size-fits-all,” Graziano said during a roundtable discussion hosted by US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
The event was part of the World Food Prize Foundation’s annual Borlaug Dialogue and featured three ministers of agriculture from Africa – H.E. Kwesi Ahwoi of Ghana, H.E. Jumanne Maghembe of Tanzania and H.E. Jose Pacheco of Mozambique.
“We are in Borlaug’s house, and the Green Revolution has much to do in Africa and in many countries around the world,” Graziano said. “But we can’t go in same way.”
He cautioned against increased dependence on chemicals, especially fertilizer, as well as over-reliance on mechanization.
“In Argentina, 90 percent of their corn and soybean production comes from areas with no tillage. This kind of knowledge needs to be shared,” he said, advocating greater South-South cooperation and knowledge exchange between and within Latin America and Africa. “Africa is the new agricultural frontier of the world.”
New model of cooperation
“We need to avoid the traditional vision of international cooperation, of having donors and countries that are recipients,” Graziano said. “Cooperation is a process that both can learn from, especially in agriculture.”
Embrapa, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, was developed based on a concept of “tropicalization”, he said, taking the seeds, machinery and practices in Northern countries and adapting them to tropical areas. It is now developing crop varieties adapted to a range of tropical sub-climates and sharing this experience with other developing countries.
Adapting technology to local conditions, rather than “reinventing the wheel” is crucial, Graziano said, adding that deep local capacity was needed.
“South-South cooperation should be based on the principle of mutual work together not from donor country to recipient country,” he said.