Innovation is central to feeding a world with a growing population and limited natural resources. In this spirit, the minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Patrick Pule Ralotsia, has urged researchers to improve food security through science, innovation and technology and save many lives from starvation.
Ralotsia admitted that food security remains one of the challenges faced by many countries in Sub-Sahara Africa despite numerous interventions.
Officially opening the 17th African Association of Biological Nitrogen Fixation (AABNF) conference at Gaborone International Convention Center (GICC) last week Monday, Ralotsia said the cost of providing input such as fertilisers is growing and is not affordable to small and medium scale farmers.
The minister says he was fascinated by the conference’s theme ‘Solutions for food security in Africa through sustainable soil fertility management of ecosystems under climate change.’
“I am informed that nitrogen is one of the major nutrients required for plant growth. Unfortunately, most soils across the world are deficient in the nutrient, and so farmers are compelled to add it to the soils usually applying artificial fertilisers,” said Ralotsia, adding that the production and use of these fertilisers are said to have negative effects on the environment if not well managed.
He urged researchers to investigate technologies such as nitrogen fixation as a way to manage climate change effects in a sustainable manner. He said the presence of graduate researchers from over 15 countries was a testimony that young scientists are being mentored to take over from the seasoned scientists when they retire.
He said the conference’s topics which include plant-microbe interactions for plant growth promotion, soil fertility management, food security, biotechnological in biological nitrogen fixation, forest and range ecology, are important subjects that need to be thoroughly researched to make Africa a better place and ensure food security.
“My belief is that all the jargon will be broken down to simple knowledge transfer that will benefit farmers to make on-farm decisions, and policy makers to develop informed policies. My belief is that this conference will set a stage where researchers, farmers and policy makers will interact and share experiences and best practices,” he said.
The on-going conference is organised by the Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BUAN).