Feeding nearly 10 billion people in 2050 will require sustainably increasing agricultural productivity globally — but there are no one-size-fits-all solutions.

On June 23, in Nairobi, Kenya, Virginia Tech’s Global Agricultural Productivity (GAP) Initiative and its partners will host a hybrid event, “Accelerating Agricultural Productivity Growth in East Africa: Agenda for Urgent Action,” to identify tailored actions for all scales of agriculture in the critical region.

In the day-long session, attendees will find specific actions that can be taken in the next 12 to 36 months to accelerate agricultural productivity growth and enhance sustainability and resilience in East Africa, a region that shows promise for helping bolster global food and nutrition security.

An initiative of Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' CALS Global office, the GAP Initiative will facilitate the event, convening speakers and attendees from across government, industry, universities and the research community, producers, development agencies, and civil society. The event will include global, national, regional, and location representatives.

Speakers include global and regional leaders in agriculture and policy, including:

  • Isaac Kibwage, Vice Chancellor, Egerton University

  • Tim Njagi, Research Fellow, Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development

  • Dr. Canisius Kanangire, Executive Director, African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF)

  • Benson Mutuku, Gender Expert: Impacting Gender & Nutrition through Innovative Technical Exchange in Agriculture (IGNITE), Tanager

  • Folu Okunade, COO, Hello Tractor

  • Dr. Okeyo Mwai, Principal Scientist Global Livestock Genetics, ILRI- Live Gene Research Program: African Dairy Genetic Gains (ADGG)

  • Tony Fernandes, deputy assistant secretary, U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs

  • Karen Hulebak, Former Chair, Codex Alimentarius Commission

  • Humphrey Kiruaye, Country Lead for Kenya and the Great Lakes Region, Corteva Agriscience

  • Florah Kirira, Partnership Development Coordinator, Farmer Input Promotions Africa (FIPS-Africa)

  • Nassib Mugwanya, Manager Global Partnerships – Agriculture Engagement & Activation, Stakeholder Affairs & Strategic Partnerships, Bayer Crop Science

  • Tom Thompson, Associate Dean and Director of CALS Global, Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS)

  • Ann Steensland, Lead, Global Agricultural Productivity Initiative, Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

This event is co-sponsored by MSD Animal Health, Egerton University, and CALS Global. CALS Global has a long-term relationship in East Africa through its partnership with the Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Agriculture and Agribusiness Management at Egerton University in Kenya. MSD Animal Health, a division of Merck & Co. Inc., is the global animal health business unit of MSD.

"We are delighted to have MSD Animal Health and Egerton University as partners for this event," said Tom Thompson, associate dean and director of CALS Global. "During the last five years, we have collaborated with Egerton to find sustainable solutions for accelerating agricultural productivity growth in East Africa. As we look for more ways to enable thriving communities across the globe, we look forward to expanding our partnerships with Egerton, MSD Animal Health, and all of our GAP Initiative supporting and consultative partners."

The in-person event will also be livestreamed on the GAP Initiative website from 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. East Africa Time (2:30 a.m.-6 a.m. EST). Virtual attendees can register here.

The GAP Initiative is supported by its supporting partners: the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Bayer Crop Science, Corteva Agriscience, John Deere, The Mosaic Company, and Smithfield Foods.

The GAP Report’s Consultative Partners are: ACDI/VOCA, Farm Foundation, HarvestPlus, Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, International Potato Center, New Markets Lab, Purdue University, Sasakawa Africa Association, Sehgal Foundation, Supporters of Agricultural Research Foundation, Tanager, and the Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute at the University of Nebraska.

Increasing agricultural productivity: A global imperative amid crises

In regions across the globe, data on agricultural productivity paints a daunting picture for meeting increasing demand for food, feed, fiber, and bioenergy.

Globally, agricultural production falls short of sustainability targets, based on total factor productivity — a measure of how efficiently agricultural inputs are transformed into outputs.

According to the GAP Initiative’s annual GAP Report, total factor productivity is growing globally at 1.36 percent (annual average, 2010–19), less than the GAP Index target of 1.73 percent to sustainably meet demand.

Compounding the issue, COVID-19, global conflict and climate change threaten progress and resiliency in the agricultural sector worldwide.

However, regions like East Africa are poised with the opportunity to positively disrupt an otherwise daunting narrative.

“Agricultural producers in East Africa have tremendous potential to increase their productivity growth in a sustainable way. Access to innovations, agronomic information, and finance are three top priorities for accelerating productivity growth in the region,” said Ann Steensland, GAP Initiative lead.

Research shows that small-scale farms in places such as Kenya, India, and Vietnam can be just as efficient as large-scale farms in places such as Brazil, primarily if they use improved technologies, tools, and services designed for smaller farms.

For instance, with healthier feed and improved housing, a small-scale dairy farmer selling to local markets in Kenya can increase milk output using fewer animals and generating less methane emissions.

Accelerating agricultural productivity in the East African region is one facet of a multi-pronged strategy to fortify agricultural productivity worldwide.

Written by Ann Steensland and Erica Corder

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