By Correspondent

Scientists have called for the adoption of innovative approaches to enhance the growing of root crops in Africa.

Speaking during the 19th International Triennial Symposium of the International Society for Tropical Root Crops (ISTRC) in Nairobi, the scientists noted that innovations in root crop research and development hold the potential to contribute to agro-processing and manufacturing.

The scientists observed that root crops have the potential to act as a buffer against the ravages of climate change on the food and nutrition security needs of many households, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

The Executive Director of African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) Dr. Canisius Kanangire said that with the reality of climate change and pronounced food insecurity in many parts of the continent, there is a renewed focus on the potential of root crops.

“We must elevate root crops to enjoy the attention given to mainstream cereal crops both in policy and research,” Dr. Kanangire told over 300 delegates attending the symposium in Nairobi, capital of Kenya.

Dr. Kanangire noted that lack of attention towards root crops has delayed the benefits that can be realized from the climate resilience potential of some of the value chains in this sub-sector.

He said that root crops require attention because they are capable of providing more edible energy per hectare per day than any other crop group.

Dr. Kanangire notes that in most SSA countries, root crops provide up to 20 per cent of dietary calorie needs for a large proportion or rural populations.

The official urged scientists to help strengthen the climate resilience of food systems through innovative and scaled up investments in the root crop sector.

Prof. Lateef Sanni, President of ISTRC says that scientists must begin to harness the power of science, technology and innovation to solve the current and emerging challenges.

Prof. Sanni observed that climate change, pests, diseases and conflicts have re-ignited the importance of root crops particularly in building resilience in food systems.

He said that the global community is looking for technological and corporate solutions to boost root crops for resilient food, nutrition and industrial systems that will lead to long term economic development.

Dr. Oscar Magenya, Director of Research and Innovation in the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock says that Kenya is in the process of introducing the youths and women into production of root crops to boost food security.

Dr. Magenya noted that Kenya is looking for innovative ways to enable farmers to acquire seedlings that are resistant to pests and disease.

The symposium is being held in Africa for the first time under the theme “Technological and business innovations for strengthening root and tuber crops for resilient food, nutrition and industrial systems towards sustainable economic development”.

It is organized by the AATF, the Government of Kenya and the ISTRC and provides an opportunity for scientists from around the world to showcase the latest technologies, products, and services and to create new ideas and partnerships for various stakeholders.