Focus of the 5th AAEW
Globally, Agricultural Extension and Advisory Services build the capacity of all actors along the different value chains unleashing their potential to contribute to the achievement of global, regional and national goals. There is a growing awareness in the development community of the challenges and opportunities in AEAS to meet the needs of resource poor people in a rapidly changing world. As a result, more people-centred and demand driven approaches are needed within functional systems. It is also critical to consider the various constraints to AEAS delivery in promoting agricultural transformation in Africa, such as: low coverage, limited technical capacity and resourcing of extension providers, low coverage and capacity in ICTs, and insufficient budget allocation. Other constraints include weak institutions, such as, research-extension-farmer linkages, farmer organisations, policy implementation among others.
The theme of the 5th AAEW 2021, therefore, is “Effective Agricultural Extension Systems for Sustainable Agripreneurship in Africa“. The global context of the 5th AAEW 2021 is grounded on several initiatives at different levels to address the key challenges in the broad development agenda. These include adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the 2015 Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development, the African Union Commission’s 2063 Agenda: The Africa We Want, and the Paris Agreement on climate change in 2015, which all give new impetus to resolving the challenges and to seize opportunities. These initiatives recognise that the world is more interdependent than ever and that Africa and developing countries remain the weakest link in global economic development. The coherent implementation of all these agreements is now needed to foster structural changes, boost growth, create jobs and achieve inclusiveness and poverty eradication in Africa and other developing countries around the globe. The 2030 Agenda recognises the role of industry as a pathway and enabler for sustainable development, in particular SDG 9, with its call to “Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation” through inclusive and sustainable industrialisation” has strong ramifications for most of the SDGs.
The context of the AAEW 2021 is also grounded on the growing efforts at national, regional levels to embrace agro-industrialisation. Agripreneurship at national levels is anticipated to create backward and forward linkages which would ultimately buttress the challenges of unemployment in Africa. It is also informed by the current discourse in agri-food systems. Noting that agriculture remains the primary employer for 60% of adult workers in Sub-Saharan Africa, many economists regard it as the sector with the most potential for poverty reduction and development. However, the agricultural sector in Africa also suffers from a huge investment gap in infrastructure, supportive policies as well as unstructured planning for growth and quality delivery of programmes. Additionally, there have been devastating challenges including effects of climate change and the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Within the Africa and the European partnership context, examples of programmes to address the challenges is the “Development Smart Innovation through Research in Agriculture (DeSIRA)”, an EU initiative aimed at deploying science and innovation to achieve an inclusive, sustainable and climate-relevant transformation of agriculture and related food systems in partner countries.
A move towards a robust and sustainable agro-industrialisation must embrace agricultural extension and advisory services and factors such as ICT / digitalisation, the youth question, COVID-19 and its influence on the food systems, and the role of private sector as a force to steer the desired progress.