East African states to share agricultural research online
By ISAAC KHISA The EastAfrican
The Association for Strengthening Research in Agriculture in Eastern and Central Africa (Asareca) has created an online portal through which scientists in member countries will share research on agriculture.
The $1.2 million project dubbed Regional Agricultural Information and Learning System is funded by the African Development Bank through the Forum for Agriculture Research in Africa, that works with national agricultural research institutions and other stakeholders at country level.
Speaking at the National Agricultural Research Organisation headquarters in Entebbe, Dr Seyfu Ketema, the executive director Asareca, said many researchers in agriculture generate a lot of information, but do not disseminate it due to inadequate channels.
“While the internet is fast becoming a major source of information, very little content generated within Africa has been made available online,” Dr Ketema said, adding that most organisations in Africa have failed to use Information and Communications Technology to provide better services.
Dr Ketema, who was handing over 10 computer notebooks and two cameras to NARO and other partners, said the RAILS project will provide a platform to promote access and sharing of agricultural information via the internet, build capacity through short term ICT training, supply ICT hardware and software, and set up an online portal for Africa at the website www.erails.net.
He said the online portal will host links to institutions and individual websites in the agricultural sector in Africa.
The use of ICT in disseminating agricultural research comes at a time when the agricultural sector is faced with challenges ranging from climate change, rising food prices, increasing poverty, and a fast growing population.
NARO’s director general Emily Twinamasiko said the new project will help Ugandan researchers disseminate and acquire information that can help modernise and make the agriculture sector profitable and internationally competitive.
“In Africa in general and Uganda in particular, the impact that research and innovation can have on agricultural and rural development and natural resources management is limited, because most of the new information and knowledge generated is not easily accessible and used,” Dr Twinamasiko said.
Uganda is currently carrying out research on all the important commodity crops including maize, beans, cassava, banana, sorghum, and millet.
The East African nation expects to take its first genetically modified crop to the market in 2014, when a regulatory framework to guide production has been enacted. The country expects commercial GM cotton in 2014, cassava 2016 and drought resistant maize by 2017.
Asareca is a sub-regional, intergovernmental, non-profit organisation working in Burundi, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.
It was established in 1994 by 10 member countries represented by their national agricultural research for development institutes. South Sudan joined in December 2011 bringing the number of members to 11.
The organisation brings together agricultural scientists, farmers and development partners, to come up with new innovations that could lead to agricultural-led economic growth, poverty eradication and improved livelihoods in Africa.