Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences | JIRCAS

For the future of agriculture, forestry and fisheries in the developing world

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“Food Security in Africa” Development of sustainable technologies to increase agricultural productivity and improve food security in Africa


The second of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the UN General Assembly calls on all nations to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.” For JIRCAS, finding ways to overcome food shortage in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), where 215 million people are currently undernourished, would be its contribution toward meeting this challenging goal.

During the third medium-term plan period, JIRCAS conducted research studies on rice, yam, and cowpea for Africa. Desirable traits in rice were investigated to increase yield and meet the recent rapid increment in consumption in SSA. Two regional crops, yam and cowpea, were also examined because of their importance in the regional food and nutritional supply chain.

This project, titled “Development of sustainable technologies to increase agricultural productivity and improve food security in Africa,” is Program B’s flagship project under JIRCAS’s fourth medium to long-term plan. The project is aimed at maximizing the previous medium-term plan’s outputs, which were obtained in collaboration with either national or international research institutions, and thus contribute to enhancing food security in SSA. In this project, our research activities were planned based on the premise of “improving sustainability with efficient utilization of resources,” “utilizing unused germplasm efficiently,” and “capturing the preferences of consumers and needs of farmers.” The project will be focusing on the three sub-themes enumerated below:

1-1 Rice production enhancement

Essential components of efficient rice production (e.g., breeding materials with improved nutrient uptake, simple diagnosis of nutrient condition, and smart fertilizer management depending on specific soil and environmental conditions) will be developed and their intergradation will be examined. Other challenges under this sub-theme include the development of technologies to improve water use efficiency by channeling excess water for rice irrigation, and the impact assessment and factor analysis of farmers’ acceptance of these new technologies (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1. More rice is required (Ghana)

1-2 Regional crop utilization

Cowpea and yam, two important regional crops in West Africa, still hold tremendous potential for productivity and quality improvements, and various demands deeply linked with regional culture and tradition will be met through utilization of unused genetic resources. Towards the active utilization of the rich genetic diversities of both crops in international and national breeding programs, we will generate fundamental information about their genetic diversities by exploring useful parental materials, and by developing tools to enable breeders to select and evaluate their materials effectively (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2. (A) Cowpea being weighed and sold at the market (Nigeria)

Fig. 2. (B) Piles of yam awaiting long distance transportation (Ghana)

1-3 Crop-livestock integration

We will develop an effective and efficient crop-livestock integration model applicable throughout the year to increase dairy production in tropical savanna areas, which have distinct rainy and dry seasons. We will develop technologies to produce animal feeds utilizing the byproducts generated from crop production and food processing. We will also utilize wastes from livestock farming as a soil fertility management method to improve food
crop production and sustain forage crop production by farmers. These are the main components of the model and we will evaluate their applicability and effectiveness in the target areas (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3. Dairy farming can make a contribution to peoples’ diets (Mozambique)

The outputs of our research for development activities are expected to be utilized by governments, researchers, extension workers, farmers, consumers, and even international organizations, and further contribute in achieving stable food production and supply and in diversifying people’s diets in SSA.

SDGs related to the project:

Zero Hunger