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BiomassNet – Profile of the month

Interviewer: Arthur Guischet – BiomassNet Team

Interviewee: Raymond Jatta

Raymond Jatta, Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), Accra, Ghana

Dr. Raymond Jatta is an Economist who hails from the smiling coast of Africa, The Gambia.  He started off working at ActionAid International, The Gambia as Programme Coordinator, moved to the EU-Gambia Cooperation as Programme Officer, and then to The Ministry of Agriculture and FAO respectively as Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist. He has fourteen years’ work experience mainly in Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation relevant to Agriculture, Food Security and Rural Development, Economic Policy Analysis and Climate Change Adaptation. He currently is the Programme Coordinator, Planning and S3A Mainstreaming at FARA. S3A stands for Science Agenda for Agriculture in Africa (S3A)

Dr. Jatta has a PhD in Economics (with focus on Climate Change Economics) from the University of Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, Senegal, funded through a partnership with the Centre for Development Research (ZEF) of Bonn University, Germany.

Dr. Raymond Jatta is part of the planning team for mainstreaming and implementing the Science Agenda for Agriculture in Africa (S3A), under the leadership of FARA. We are interested in how the S3A came about and how it is being implemented at national levels.

  1. What can you tell us about the Science Agenda for Agriculture in Africa (S3A) and its priority areas?

The Science agenda is a framework for deepening the application of science, technology and innovation for agricultural transformation in Africa. It seeks to operationalize the implementation of the Malabo commitments, especially on commitment 3, 4 and 6. (ie. Commitment to ending hunger in Africa by 2025, Commitment to halving poverty by the year 2025, through inclusive Agricultural Growth and Transformation, Commitment to enhancing resilience of livelihoods and production systems to climate variability and other related risks.

The development of the science agenda was sanctioned by the African Union Commission and NEPAD. FARA was assigned the responsibility to lead its formulation. In 2014, it was endorsed by the AU Heads of States and governments. Now its is being mainstreamed at country level.

The priority areas are on, increasing investments in science for agriculture, building capacities for technology development and outreach, enhancing quality of science and science delivery and enabling policies. The overall vision of the science agenda is that “by 2030 Africa is food secure, a global scientific player, and the world’s breadbasket”

  1. What are the gaps and challenges that the S3A identified in African agriculture?

A baseline study by FARA in 2016 on how countries were doing in terms of their progress towards meeting the Malabo commitments has shown that with ‘business as usual’ no country in Africa will meet the Malabo commitment of doubling Agricultural productivity by 2025 (using 2013 as baseline). The imperative is therefore for countries to vigorously pursue actions to deepen the application of science to speed up the transformation of agriculture in Africa.

The Science Agenda postulates that a deeper application of science, technology and innovation is required across the value chains –

The value added of the science agenda is therefore to (1) enhance coordination among relevant  stakeholders, enhance demand-driven articulation mechanism and technologies; (2) support the implementation of the continental commitments and policies through impactful and coherent country programmes; (3) help define country agendas and priorities, particularly for Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) programmes that are in alignment with national, continental and global targets and; (4) support resource leveraging and partnerships (South-South, North-South, North-North-South).

  1. How is Ghana planning to implement the S3A at the national level?

Ghana is one of five countries in Africa (including Rwanda, Malawi, Senegal and Egypt) selected to start the implementation of the Science Agenda on the basis of progress it has made towards achieving the Malabo/CAADP and MDG/SDG commitments.

Currently, a National Investment Proposal aligned with Ghana’s Medium – Term Agriculture Sector Investment Plan is being developed, led by the government of Ghana through the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture. Other stakeholder’s include The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The Universities of Ghana and Cape coast, Farmer-based organizations, Civil Society, private sector actors, and Development partners are all involved in the S3A processes in Ghana. On the 14th November 2018, the government of Ghana (through the two Ministers of Food and Agriculture and Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation) signed a National S3A commitment. In effect, Ghana has become the second country to commit at the highest level to the implementation of a science-driven agricultural transformation. The first country to sign the Commitment letter is Benin. Recently the African Union Commission agencies have also endorsed the Science Agenda implementation processes.

There has also been a wave of new interests on mainstreaming and implementation of the Science Agenda beyond the initial Tier one countries; notably from Benin, South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, The Gambia and Burkina Faso. This is a major achievement for the Science Agenda implementation; where countries demand for support from FARA to initiate the implementation of the Science Agenda on their own. In the 2019, FARA will continue to support countries requests to initate the implementation of the Science Agenda.

  1. Is food and non-food biomass development a point of interest in Ghana’s agenda for agriculture? If so, what programs or activities have been planned or initiated to promote this sector?

In the recently approved Medium Term Agriculture Sector Investment Plan (METASIP III), eradication of extreme poverty, hunger, resilience building are all key programmes of the Government of Ghana. Agricultural transformation is expected through increasing production and productivity of high value export and food crops, such as cocoa, cassava, and maize. Processing and value addition of these crops are also a major feature. The “Planting for Food and Jobs” and “One District One Factory” initiatives are some of the policies developed by the Ghanaian government  to accelerate sustainable and inclusive transformation of Agriculture in Ghana. This is where much of the public-private-partnership are concentrated. The example of the BiomassWeb project supporting localized activities in Ghana like mushroom production using cassava peels, or the production of bread and other products using plantain, are therefore good innovations that can easily be out scaled nationwide.

  1. What do you think of the BiomassNet community platform?

I am excited about BiomassNet. Its is the first online platform in Africa on food and non-food biomass. It creates visibility about the importance of sustainable use of resources through innovations, technology, practices and sharing of knowledge. It also brings together experts to interact.

This is good for FARA because it shows that we are also active in this area, as the technical arm of the AU on Agriculture, research and extension.

The challenge is to provide relevant information to the platform and for the platform to be active.

  1. As a scientist, how in your opinion can our BiomassNet community better link science, policy and practice to promote food and non-food biomass development in Africa?

I think occasionally, we should be encouraged to create events that will expedite the process of cataloging all the innovations and practices for the sustainable uses of biomass in Africa. Celebrating key milestones by featuring experts on the platform at any point in time may motivate and encourage active participation.

  1. What do you like about your work?

I am learning a lot, in new areas such as Agricultural research for development, actions for research outputs to reach the last mile, Innovations in Biomass use and interactions. This a good add on from my work in FAO, NGOs and in government. I am naturally a keen listener. So, I am enjoying my work here at FARA. I am also gaining better perspectives on continental and global programmes, eg. Climate Negotiations, CAADP, STISA etc,

  1. How do you deal with biomass in your daily life?

I try to use resources more sustainably and reduce waste as much as possible. I share information on what I know about how biomass is being used sustainably. If there is no need to use a car, I walk.

  1. What is your favorite local food?

My favorite local food is Kenkey. It is a Maize product. I eat it almost every weekend.