Science and Technology Backyard model: implications for sustainable agriculture in Africa
Sustainable food production to feed the growing population in Africa remains a major challenge. Africa has 64% of the global arable land but produces less than 10% of its food locally due to its inherently low soil nutrient concentrations. Poor soil fertility and a lack of fertilizer use are the major constraints to increasing crop yields in Africa. On average only about 8.8 kg NPK fertilizer is applied per hectare by African smallholder farmers. There is therefore considerable potential for increasing food production through sustainable intensification of the cropping systems. The low crop yields in Africa are also partly due to limited farmer access to modern agronomic techniques, including improved crop varieties, a lack of financial resources, and the absence of mechanisms for dissemination of information to smallholders. This study analyzed the Science and Technology Backyards (STBs) model and investigated its use for the transformation of agriculture in Africa. Some key lessons for sustainable crop intensification in Africa can be found from analysis of the STB model which is well established in China. These include (1) scientist-farmer engagement to develop adaptive and innovative technology for sustainable crop production, (2) dissemination of technology by empowering smallholders, especially leading farmers, and (3) the development of an open platform for multiple resource involvement rather than relying on a single mechanism. This review evaluates the benefits of the STB model used in China for adoption to increase agricultural productivity in Africa, with a perspective on sustainable crop intensification on the continent.
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