By Taiwo Ajala
Former Nigerian President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo today said African farmers should embrace new knowledge and technology for improved agricultural yields and increased value proposition especially for small holder farmers.
Obasanjo made this call at the announcement ceremony of the 2020 Africa Food Prize (AFP) award which held at the virtual Africa Green Revolution Forum (AGRV) hosted in Rwanda.
The winners, Dr. André Bationo and Dr. Catherine Nakalembe were rewarded for their exceptional contribution towards the promotion of food security across the African continent.
In his remarks, the former President who is the Chair, Africa Food Prize Committee said Dr. Andre Bationo, a researcher from Burkina Faso, has been recognized for his efforts into the improvement of micro-dosing fertilizer technology. Dr. Bationo has also scaled-up an inventory credit system which allows farmers to store grain and receive a credit when prices are low, thus selling their grain when prices are higher.
The micro-dosing technology and inventory credit systems are already benefitting millions of farmers in West Africa, having spread from the villages in Niger where Dr. Bationo first implemented these innovations to the wider regions.
Represented by Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenburg, Obasanjo said Dr. Catherine Nakalembe was dedicated to improving the lives of smallholder farmers by using satellite technology to harness data to guide agricultural decision-making.
He said her work in this area has helped prevent potentially disastrous impacts of crop failure. Her relentless efforts have also promoted the formulation of policies and programs that are directly impacting farmers against the impacts of food failure.
“We need innovative Africans like Dr. Bationo and Dr. Nakalembe to demonstrate the potential of new knowledge and technology together with practical technologies that help improve the value proposition for farmers. These two are indeed exceptional Africans,” Obasanjo said.
The Africa Food Prize was created to honour African farmers and researchers who have made outstanding efforts to overcome obstacles across the agriculture value chain on the continent. These efforts include but not limited to improving access to high quality products, impacts of climate change and access to markets.
Speaking at the ceremony, Svein Tore Holsether, President and CEO of Yara International, one of the sponsors of the award said: “Both Dr. Catherine Nakalembe and Dr André Bationo represent exactly the kind of entrepreneurial and innovative spirit that African agriculture depends on to transform. Their achievements are remarkable.”
Accepting the award, Dr. Nakalembe noted that it is imperative to work together with leaders in government to dedicate resources towards food security. “I believe that together, we can harness the great potential of our farms to achieve sustainable food systems across the continent,” she said.
Expressing joy at the award, Dr. Bationo said: “It is great to see farmers embracing opportunities offered by disruptive digital technologies to increase productivity and promote access to services and markets. I am honored to be part of this disruption.”
With the task of annually selecting winners from a list of exemplary nominees, the Africa Food Prize Committee is an independent body of preeminent leaders that is chaired by the former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo. The other committee members are Mr. Birama Sidibe, Dr. Eleni Z. Gabre-Madhin, Prof. Joachim von Braun, Amb. Sheila Sisulu, Prof. Sheryl Hendriks, Dr. Vera Songwe, and Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg.