Agriculture remains the key to Africa’s economic future. With approximately 200 million people chronically hungry, advances in African agricultural research and development (R&D) are urgently needed. This will require considerable investments and increased efficiency and effectiveness of agricultural R&D. Access to information and communication technology (ICT) is rapidly increasing in many African countries and provides tremendous opportunities to accelerate their economic growth and development through the enhanced efficiency and effectiveness of R&D.
This trend offers scope for the use of decision support tools (DSTs) that can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of agricultural R&D in Africa. Such tools can, in principle, assist with the diagnosis of problems and opportunities in agricultural systems, the identification of options for alternative management, the analysis of experiments, and the diffusion of promising technologies/approaches. The use of DSTs to advance smallholder agriculture in these countries faces a number of specific constraints, however. These include lack of exposure of the development staff to DSTs, the complexity of African farming systems, and the lack of reliable data.
This guide provides a number of case studies that illustrate how combinations of DSTs can be used to address a specific situation. Some case studies also show how the use of DSTs can be combined with farmer participatory learning and action research. The case studies served to develop a framework that will guide the user to decide what tool(s) to use in a particular stage of agricultural R&D.