Innovations in areas ranging from soil management and plant breeding to insect pest control and food safety have brought the world a step closer to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and scaling up the capacity to deploy such novelties is imperative, QU Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said today.
“To achieve optimal results on the ground, we strive to link science with farmers, and farmers with science,” he said at the first-ever joint meeting of members of the Africa Groups in both Rome and Vienna, the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The meeting was held to showcase what the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture can offer to Africa, and to provide an opportunity for representatives from Africa to set out the key areas for strengthened support.
Africa is keen on support in areas such as isotopic analysis of soils, sophisticated insect pest control techniques, using irradiation to improve food safety and quality control, and also has a lot itself to offer in terms of innovation and science through closer collaboration between local research laboratories and the scientists at the Joint Centre, said Nosipho Nausca-Jean Jezile, Ambassador of South Africa and Chair of the Africa Group based in Rome.
IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi invited Rome-based Permanent Representatives to FAO to visit IAEA laboratories in Vienna “You need to see what we can do for you,” he said.
Qu pointed to some of the recent successes the Joint FAO-IAEA Centre has contributed to in Africa, including using isotope techniques to obtain precise measurements of soil erosion rates and evaluate effectiveness of soil conservation practices in Tunisia and a similar approach that drove a 150 percent increase in cucumber yields in Nigeria while reducing water use.
Other success stories in the region, highlighted in technical presentations at the meeting, include enormous increase in cassava yields, livelihood gains in Senegal due to eradicating the tsetse fly in some areas and a high-performing rice mutant variety in Zanzibar, Tanzania.
Increasing demand from Members for such services shows the effective comparative advantages that FAO and IAEA have effectively expanded through their longstanding and recently-deepened collaboration, Qu said. “Africa has big potential for the future,” he added.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of FAO Regional Office for Africa.