The New Harvest : Agricultural Innovation in Africa By Calestous Juma

harvestIt took me a while to finish this book. Mainly because I had to take notes on several occasion, mark down a page, look up something on the internet or discuss an idea with someone. Every one of the 200-something pages are worth thinking about. That is why I hope that all policymakers in Africa have or will read this book. Not only policymakers but all the stakeholders in Africa’s development (private sectors, NGOs, Universities, regular people like me…).

 Interesting comment from some African Head of States:

“This book presents a timely analysis of the importance of infrastructure in improving Africa’s agriculture. Leaders at national and state levels will benefit immensely from its evidence-based recommendations.”

Goodluck Jonathan
President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

“This book is a forceful reminder of the important role that African women play in agriculture on the continent. It is critical that they are provided with equal educational opportunity as a starting point for building a new economic future for the continent.”

— Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
President of the Republic of Liberia

“New technologies, especially biotechnology, provide African countries with additional tools for improving the welfare of farmers. I commend this book for the emphasis it places on the critical role that technological innovation plays in agriculture. The study is a timely handbook for those seeking new ways of harnessing new technologies for development, including poor farmers, many of whom are women.”

Blaise Compaoré President of Burkina Faso 

 Did you know that:

 In sub-Saharan Africa, agriculture directly contributes to 34% of GDP and 64% of employment. Growth in agriculture is at least two to four times more effective in reducing poverty than in other sectors?

Why, then, it is not a government’s priority in some african countries?

I think before I go any further, I should warn you that I don’t know the first thing about agriculture. I am only a Banker . That is why this book is very important  for people like me. It helped me understand the challenges and opportunities of agriculture in Africa.

If I have to remember one key thing from this book, it is the fact that agriculture is not and should not be viewed as  separate  from the rest of the economy. Quite the contrary, it should be viewed as the base for any sustainable development. I would like to thank Dr Juma for sending me his incredibly pertinent book.

But first, a word about the author

Calestous Juma is Professor of the Practice of International Development and Director of the Science, Technology, and Globalization Project at Harvard University. He directs the Agricultural Innovation in Africa Project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and serves as Faculty Chair of Innovation for Economic Development executive program. Juma is a former Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and Founding Director of the African Centre for Technology Studies in Nairobi. He is co-chair of the African Union’s High-Level Panel on Science, Technology and Innovation and a jury member of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering. He was Chancellor of the University of Guyana and has been elected to several scientific academies including the Royal Society of London, the US National Academy of Sciences, the World Academy of Sciences, the UK Royal Academy of Engineering and the African Academy of Sciences. He has won several international awards for his work on sustainable development. He holds a doctorate in science and technology policy studies and has written widely on science, technology, and environment. Juma serves on the boards of several international bodies and is editor of the International Journal of Technology and Globalisation and theInternational Journal of Biotechnology.He is currently working on books on engineering for development and resistance to new technologies.

Follow him on Twitter: @calestous

About the Book

African agriculture is currently at a crossroads, at which persistent food shortages are compounded by threats from climate change. But, as this book argues, Africa faces three major opportunities that can transform its agriculture into a force for economic growth: advances in science and technology; the creation of regional markets; and the emergence of a new crop of entrepreneurial leaders dedicated to the continent’s economic improvement.

Filled with case studies from within Africa and success stories from developing nations around the world, The New Harvest outlines the policies and institutional changes necessary to promote agricultural innovation across the African continent. Incorporating research from academia, government, civil society, and private industry, the book suggests multiple ways that individual African countries can work together at the regional level to develop local knowledge and resources, harness technological innovation, encourage entrepreneurship, increase agricultural output, create markets, and improve infrastructure.

Download the entire book for free here:
http://belfercenter.org/files/TheNewHarvest-rev.pdf

What is this book about exactly? In the introduction part, there is a statement that answer that question very well:

This book argues that sustaining African economic prosperity will require significant efforts to modernize the continent’s economy through the application of science and technology in agriculture. In other words, agriculture needs to be viewed as a knowledge-based entrepreneurial activity. The argument is based on the premise that smart investments in agriculture will have multiplier effects in many sectors of the economy and help spread prosperity. More specifically, the book focuses on the importance of boosting support for agricultural research as part of a larger agenda to promote innovation, invest in enabling infrastructure, build human capacity, stimulate entrepreneurship and improve the governance of innovation.

             The New harvest, Introduction XIV

Agricultural Innovation Systems:The New Harvest,Chap 3

Agriculture is considered central to African economies, but it is treated like other sectors, each with their own distinctive institutions and with little regard for their relationship with the rest of the economy….

A more realistic view is to treat economies as “systems of innovation.” The process of technological innovation involves interactions among a wide range of actors in society, who form a system of mutually reinforcing learning activities. These interactions and the associated components constitute dynamic “innovation systems.”

An innovation system can be defined as a network of organizations, enterprises, and individuals focused on bringing new products, new processes, and new forms of organization into economic use, together with the institutions and policies that affect their behavior and performance. The innovation systems concept embraces not only the science suppliers but the totality and interaction of actors involved in innovation. It extends beyond the creation of knowledge to encompass the factors affecting demand for and use of knowledge in novel and useful ways…

Government, the private sector, universities, and research institutions are important parts of a larger system of knowledge and interactions that allows diverse actors with varies strengths to come together to pursue broad common goals in agricultural innovation.

Enabling Infrastructure: The New Harvest, Chap 4

Infrastructure represents a foundational base for applying technical knowledge in sustainable development and relies heavily on civil engineering.

  this chapter focus on ways to design “smart infrastructure” that takes advantage of advances in the engineering sciences as well as ecologically sound systems design. Unlike other regions of the world, Africa’s poor infrastructure represent a unique opportunity to adopt new approaches in the design and implementation of infrastructure facilities.                                                                            The New Harvest, P 84

Human Capacity:The New Harvest, Chap 5

Schools should include agriculture as a formal subject—from the earliest childhood experience to agricultural universities. They should consider agriculture an important area for investment and work to develop students’ agricultural and technical knowledge at the primary and secondary levels. Universities should also consider agriculture an important research domain and devote staff and resources to developing new agricultural techniques that make sense for their populations and ecosystems.

Governments and schools should treat agriculture as a skill to be learned, valued, and improved upon from early childhood through adult careers instead of as a last resort for people who cannot find the resources to move to a city and get an industrial job. Valuing the agricultural system and lifestyle and trying to improve it takes advantage of Africa’s existing systems and capacities …..

If you don’t have time to read the whole book, I advise you to read these three chapters. You can expected very powerful ideas, practical examples and solutions. Also, I really like the overall tone of the book. For example, we know that the bad state of Africa’s infrastructure is an obstacle to the development of the continent. However, in this book, it represents a huge opportunity to use “smart design” and try new things out. Another, very powerful idea, is the notion that local knowledge should be valued and used.

Some other ideas worth pondering: The role of Regional Economics communities (RECS), Poverty Alleviation and Agriculture – poverty alleviation with the available resources, Lessons and ideas are drawn from the Asian green revolution, The role of the diaspora in enabling Africa to benefit from the latest technologies, Women, education and agriculture, the culture of innovation and the role of government in powering  policies and environment favorable to innovation and new technologies.

If you are interested in the subject, I recommend you  this book.

Did you read the book? What did you think?

One response to “The New Harvest : Agricultural Innovation in Africa By Calestous Juma

  1. Pingback: 2013 Under The Neem Tree best non-fiction books | Under the Neem Tree·

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