Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sanginga drums up support for IITA’s Southern Africa hub

 The IITA Director General, Dr Nteranya Sanginga, was last week, from 11 – 15 June 2012, in Zambia, to meet different partners of the institute to explore ways to strengthen relationships and support each other in efforts to find solutions to hunger and poverty in the country and beyond.

IITA DG (extreme left) talks to Dr Mick Mwala, Dean of School of Agricultural
Sciences. At the centre is Dr Chikoye, IITA Director for Southern Africa 

The partners welcomed the move by IITA to invest in first class research facilities and increase the number and diversity of scientists working in Lusaka, Zambia, its regional hub for Southern Africa and serving 13 countries in the region

Meeting with AfDB team
The hub is one of four that the institute is working through as it decentralizes its activities to have more impact as part of its ambitious plan to get 20 million people out of poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa in the next ten years as spelt out in its refreshed strategy. 

The hubs are in Nigeria for the West, Tanzania for Eastern, Zambia for Southern and Democratic Republic of Congo for Central Africa.

Tackling succession crisis in agricultural research
Sanginga said the institute was going to especially focus on building capacity of researchers from national research institutes and institutions of higher learning.

He noted that many countries in Africa were heading towards a crisis as the current experienced civil servants in the agricultural sector who were retiring did not have qualified predecessors to take over. 

At a media briefing
“In Zambia, in Congo, in Kenya and in many other African countries, the situation is the same. We have scientists at the prime of their career being forced to retire because they have attained retirement age of 50 – 55 years. On the other hand, there are very few experienced staff to take over from them. So at IITA we are exploring how to make use of the knowledge and skills of these retirees and how to build the capacity of young researchers and attract the young people to agriculture,” he said.

This was welcomed by the Acting Director of ZARI Dr Moses Mwale and the Dean of the School of Faculty of Agriculture Sciences, University of Zambia, Dr Mick Mwala and their colleagues.

Crop diversification
Visiting a tissue culture lab at Zambian Agricultural Research Institute
Dr Sanginga also noted that there was need for African countries to diversify their staple crops particularly to avoid over reliance on maize. This was supported by country representatives of FAO, Mr Adrianus Spijker and Africa Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Freddie Kwesiga who noted that over-reliance on maize as a food staple and income crop in Zambia was not sustainable particularly in the face of climate change and dependency on rain-fed agriculture.

They identified cassava as one crop they were keen on promoting as it was a hardy crop with uses that went beyond just being a food crop.

Dr Sanginga assured them that IITA had many years of working along the cassava value chain and would lend its expertise to support the country in its diversification efforts.

He gave an example of Nigeria where the policy of including 20% cassava flour was saving the country millions of US dollars from reduced wheat importation and was creating jobs for thousands of young people.

Sanginga giving a talk at the University of Zambia, School of
Agricultural Sciences
FAO country representative, Mr Spijker noted that IITA and FAO had achieved significant success in dealing with Cassava Mosaic Diseases (CMD) in DRC. He said IITA’s new disease-resistant varieties distributed all over the country, with support from FAO and other partners, had averted a major disaster. He was therefore more than happy to collaborate with IITA to make a difference in Zambia.

A group photo with students and faculty members
Sanginga said the institute was also focusing on strengthening its research on Natural Resource Management, and partnership with National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) for better impact.   

Sanginga was accompanied by the IITA director for Southern Africa, David Chikoye and Steve Boahen, and Alene Arega, the Country representatives for Mozambique and Malawi respectively.

In his short busy program in Zambia, Sanginga also made brief presentations at the University of Zambia, at the FAO offices, had a media briefing in addition to holding a meeting with all IITA staff in Zambia.  

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