Local solutions for food shortages in developing countries

Jari Valkonen, Professor of Plant Pathology, thinks that the best way to support food production in developing countries is to develop their research capacity.

Valkonen

Developed countries have developed high-yielding plant varieties, productive livestock breeds and agricultural technology through research carried out over a number of decades, and this has been exported to developing countries. Researchers from developing countries have also been trained in developed countries.

Academy Professor Jari Valkonen does not believe, however, that it will be possible to ensure food production in this way in a sustainable manner.

“Universities and research institutes in developing countries must be supported so that they can develop their own research capacity and technology, as well as improve the standard of their degree programmes,” says Valkonen.

There are many examples in the various sectors of agriculture and food production of how research results have been put to best use. When a virus epidemic destroyed the cassava plantations in East Africa in the 1990s, the epidemic was brought under control by finding out which viruses had caused it and by developing varieties resistant to them.

“Several East African countries used the development aid that was offered wisely: they set up wide-ranging international projects with donor countries, as a result of which the research capacity of their own institutions improved.

A new epidemic caused by new viruses has emerged, but this time East African countries have been able to respond to it very effectively.

“In the future, young researchers will be trained to work in research projects that are locally important in the universities and research institutes of their home countries. It is important to commit to cooperation for a sufficiently long period because although noticeable progress is achieved quickly, consolidating these improvements takes time, maybe as long as a generation.

Text: Sanna Schildt
Photo: Arthur Tugume
9.2.2010
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