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Staying Climate-Smart: Coordination Meeting on Enhancing Crop Nutrition and Soil and Water Management in Africa Held in Vienna

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Participants of the Coordination Meeting visit the IAEA Seibersdorf Laboratories. (Photo: M. Pavlova/IAEA)

Counterparts and representatives of 16 IAEA African Member States gathered at the Agency’s Vienna headquarters from 8 to 12 October 2018 to discuss the work plan to implement climate-smart agricultural technologies to strengthen the resilience of smallholder farmers to climate change. The coordination meeting took place within the framework of an ongoing, regional technical cooperation (TC) project[1] which is improving soil and water management practices across the African continent.

Opening the meeting, Shaukat Abdulrazak, Director of the Technical Cooperation Division for Africa, emphasized the essential role played by nuclear science and technology in the field of food and agriculture, a key priority for the African continent. Director Abdulrazak noted that 40% of Africa’s soil is currently degraded, besides being infertile, and that an effective response to soil infertility, soil erosion and land degradation will require closer coordination between the project’s relevant stakeholders, including increased cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). He also highlighted the dearth of irrigation projects in the continent, which only cover 7% of the region’s total cultivated area, according the International Water Management Institute.

The challenge of food insecurity and poverty in Africa is aggravated by its steadily growing population and by the increasing impacts of climate change, most often characterized by an increased variability of rainfall and an elevation of minimum and maximum temperatures. In response, the IAEA, in partnership with FAO, is working with its Member States to introduce water-saving irrigation technologies—such as drip irrigation systems and small-scale irrigation technologies (SSITs)— through technology transfers and capacity-building. These techniques enable farmers, and especially female farmers, to take advantage of limited resources to enhance the production of high-value crops, and subsequently stimulate income generation.

The TC project which supported the coordination meeting builds on prior achievements in the field by further disseminating best practices and the newest techniques to preserve soil health and fertility. For example, through capacity building and expert missions, this project facilitated the work of the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization to improve the water- and nutrient-use of high-value crops, using nuclear and isotopic techniques, with the aim of maximising overall water and nutrient uptake for field vegetables

The meeting allowed exchange of information between IAEA staff and project counterparts, who presented their national programmes and approaches. Participants reviewed the impact of IAEA human resource capacity building efforts, assessed the availability of infrastructure, including the functionality of soil and water laboratories, and developed a roadmap for activities planned between 2019 and 2021. The meeting’s participants also visited the Soil and Water Management and Crop Nutrition Laboratory of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division in Seibersdorf.

The countries participating in the TC project are: Algeria, Benin, Botswana, Cote d'Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Mauritius, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. All participants and partners are encouraged to provide mutual assistance and foster regional cooperation in the effective utilization of available nuclear expertise and infrastructure.

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[1] RAF5079, ‘Enhancing Crop Nutrition and Soil and Water Management and Technology Transfer in Irrigated Systems for Increased Food Production and Income Generation

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