Expert Report

Each report is produced by a committee of experts selected by the Academy to address a particular statement of task and is subject to a rigorous, independent peer review; while the reports represent views of the committee, they also are endorsed by the Academy. Learn more on our expert consensus reports.

Increased agricultural productivity is a major stepping stone on the path out of poverty in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, but farmers there face tremendous challenges improving production. Poor soil, inefficient water use, and a lack of access to plant and animal breeding resources, nutritious animal feeds, high quality seed, and fuel and electricity--combined with some of the most extreme environmental conditions on Earth--have made yields in crop and animal production far lower in these regions than world averages. At the request of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Research Council convened an expert committee to identify emerging innovations in science and technology that have the potential to improve agricultural productivity in the two regions. This report identifies sixty technologies that could significantly help farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia; eighteen are recommended for immediate development and further exploration.

Key Messages

  • Agricultural innovations for SSA and SA do not need to be based on low technology.
  • Climate change has implications for technological applications in SSA and SA.
  • Technologies must be implemented in a system-wide approach.
  • Technologies with the greatest potential impact on agricultural production in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are those that help to (1) manage the natural resource base supporting agriculture; (2) improve the genetic characteristics of crops and animals; (3) reduce biotic constraints (such as disease, pests, weeds) that decrease yields; and (4) provide affordable, renewable energy for farmers
  • The development and success of innovations require local expertise and participation.
  • This report identifies 60 emerging technologies with the potential to significantly improve agricultural productivity in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.