Prospects for agricultural research to prevent famine

As I discussed a few weeks ago, the causes behind the Horn of Africa famine are more political/economic than they are ecological/agricultural. That said, when facing a mix of causes, there should be a mix of solutions. Better agricultural technology can help communities become more resilient in the face of droughts.

I should confess that I react with knee-jerk skepticism whenever someone raves about a particular technological solution to a development problem. ICT solutions seem especially vulnerable to excessive hype. My complaint stems from the tendency to seek universal solutions, to undervalue local context, and to believe that the right invention can sidestep political and management complications. Of course, technophiles are not alone in making these errors, but they’re the worst offenders.

However, agricultural research seems to avoid the mistakes of ICT. The field of agricultural research has done a pretty good job of recognizing the need for context-specific solutions.

To that end, the Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers attempts to coordinate the work of 15 research centers around the world, including 2 here in Kenya. Not surprisingly, the consortium is focusing on the Horn of Africa right now. They’ll be holding a briefing tomorrow, complete with a live video broadcast and chat channel for web participation. More details here. You can also follow the event on twitter.

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