Development experts at NRI have welcomed the Report of the Commission for Africa published on 11 March 2005. The NRI team, which prepared a background paper on agricultural infrastructure for the Commission, argues that governments, donor agencies and development banks around the world should go even further to assist and support sustainable development programmes across the African continent.
In a statement, Dr Guy Poulter, NRI's Director, said: "This is an excellent start. Growth and poverty reduction are clear priorities for the Commission for Africa and, to achieve these priorities, agriculture has a critical role to play. The fact that 70-80% of employment, 40% of exports and 30% of GDP in Africa are agriculture-based reflects the vital importance of this sector. However, agricultural growth and productivity are clearly constrained by a wide range of obstacles. The key issues are: poor infrastructure, including that in the post-harvest sector; impacts of international trade regimes; burdens from pests, diseases and weeds; and insecurity of land tenure. Successful development, based on agriculture, will need to be underpinned by north/south partnerships of scientists and other researchers working with African farmers and smallholders at the local level."
Dr Poulter added: "The Commission's Report rightly highlights the need for research into improved methods of crop production, pest and disease management, reduction of post-harvest losses, and tackling of land-rights issues. Despite advances over the past 40 years, there are many very real and pressing problems still facing the agricultural sector in Africa. Existing partnerships between African research institutions and northern centres of excellence, such as NRI, which have been formed through mentoring and linkages over nearly half a century, provide a strong platform from which to develop the new technologies required. Such approaches also provide an entry point for the investment required to achieve the lasting enhancement of capabilities of African organizations, which the Report identifies as key to achieving the Commission for Africa's objectives."