IITA hopes to boost its research efforts to secure the food and income for millions of smallholder farmers in eastern and central Africa, a region that experiences severe food shortages from time to time, with the construction of a state-of the art-science research block in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
The building whose foundation stone was laid by the country’s Prime Minister, Hon Mizengo Kayanza Peter Pinda recently, is expected to be completed in October next year (2012) and will serve the institute’s research for development activities in 17 countries in the region.
Speaking during the foundation-stone-laying ceremony, Hon Pinda thanked the IITA Board of Trustees for honoring the country by choosing it as the Regional Hub for eastern and central Africa and for investing its resources in the much needed building that will strengthen agricultural research in the country.
He noted the building would generate much needed scientific research to provide solutions to problems of food security and poverty alleviation therefore improving the lives of millions of small-holder farmers in the country and the region.
He said that agriculture was the backbone of Tanzania's economy and played an important role in its overall economic development and the livelihood of its people. He said statistics showed that in 2009, the agriculture sector contributed 24.6 percent towards the Country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and during the 2009/2010 farming season, the sector managed to produce 12.32 million tonnes of food against an estimated demand of about 11.15 million tonnes, leading to food self-sufficiency of about 110.6 Percent.
However, he said the overall productivity was still very low and that the country had not achieved its goals on food security and poverty alleviation by ensuring adequate and surplus food production, for local consumption and for export.
Furthermore, he noted there were still more challenges ahead in the pursuit for food self sufficiency and poverty alleviation posed by the increasing population coupled with global warming which, called for more investment of resources - money, human resource and infrastructure development and greater collaboration in agricultural research among local, regional and international institutions.
Agricultural research, Hon Pinda said, has a very important role to play to generate knowledge on how to sustainably increase productivity. These include providing improved high yielding varieties resistant to the major pests and diseases, good agronomical practices to get the maximum yield and sustainable and cost effective ways to control pests and diseases and on processing and proper post harvest handling of the farmers’ produce.
While welcoming the honorable Prime Minister to lay the building’s foundation stone, the outgoing Board chair Prof Bryan Harvey, in a speech read on his behalf by Prof Bruce Coulman -the new incoming board chair-, thanked the Government of Tanzania for its commitment to agriculture and agricultural research in the country.
He said that IITA had been operating in Tanzania for many years, primarily through special projects, but was elevated to be the institute's regional hub for East and Central Africa in 2005 to support the expansion of the its (th institute’s) activities in the region.
He said the expansion created the need for more space and resources and hence the decision, once more by the Board of Trustees, to acquire the present property of 2.3 acres and to invest in new research facilities, one of which was the modern and energy-efficient science block which was the first of its kind in Tanzania.
The IITA science building is an ultra-modern, environmentally friendly building with state-of-the-art, energy-efficient construction, appliances, and renewable energy sources, such as solar water heating, solar power, and natural lighting. It will reduce its energy use by 65-70% with efficient air handling control. It is dedicated to the fight against hunger and poverty and will contribute towards boosting agricultural productivity in the region.