Monday, July 2, 2012

IITA and NARO to strengthen partnership on agricultural research for the benefit of the region

Dr Emily Twinamasiko, NARO DG

IITA and the Ugandan National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) have agreed to strengthen their collaboration to boost agriculture in the country and beyond following a meeting between the Directors Generals of the two institutes, IITA’s Dr Nteranya Sanginga and NARO’s Dr. Emily Twinamasiko at NARO’s headquarters in Entebbe.

Dr Sanginga noted that NARO was widely recognized for having one of the strongest banana and cassava research programs in Africa. IITA has not only been supporting these programs but has also benefitted tremendously from them to achieve its mission of fighting hunger and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.

Sanginga said IITA was very keen to work more strategically with NARO, tapping into its rich knowledge base and experienced staff, not only through joint research projects, but also on the CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs) such as the one on Roots, Tubers and Banana (RTB – CRP3.4) and the IITA-led Humidtropics program (CRP1.2).

He identified capacity building as one areas that NARO can play a significant role in the region for the benefit of countries such as South Sudan.

“We need to work better together, carry out joint planning and share credits for successful outputs. We need to share resources, frustrations and successes,” he said.

He observed the two institutions were working very well in a joint program to develop genetically transformed bananas for resistance against Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW). He informed his NARO counterpart that he had earlier met with the NARO banana program leader Dr. Wilberforce Tushemereirwe who had briefed him on the progress made in the search for a sustainable solution to the bacterial disease that had greatly affected the production of this important food staple in the region since 2003.

He further invited both Drs. Twinamasiko and Tushemereirwe to visit IITA-Ibadan later this year to further shape the collaboration. The two accepted the invitation and welcomed the proposal to strengthen collaborations with NARO. Twinamasiko said that indeed the two institutions can benefit immensely from working better together and that there were many opportunities to do so.

IITA established office in Uganda in 1992 and has mostly been working on banana and cassava although some of its maize, yam, cowpea, and soybean germplasm have also reached the country. In recent years, the two have collaborated on coffee-based farming systems and climate change.

Beyond joint biotech work on banana and cassava, NARO and IITA have taken pride in having developed highland banana hybrids and resistant cassava varieties that have found their way to farmers’ fields. The institutes’ phytopathologists exported the Ugandan expertise to the larger region such as DR Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, and Kenya.

Tushemereirwe, NARO banana program leader gives
Sanginga, IITA DG,  a tour of joint NARO/IITA field trials
at Kawanda, Uganda,  where work on banana
transformation  is going on.
During his five-day visit to Uganda, in addition to participating at the Global Cassava Partnership for 21st Century conference, Sanginga also met with ambassadors and senior officers in the donor community including a visit to the USAID Mission, Belgian Embassy, Dutch Embassy, European Union Head of Delegation, and aBi-Trust to strengthen collaboration with IITA.

He also visited the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central (ASARECA), another key partner for IITA and held meeting with both national staffs and IITA scientists with R4D activities in Uganda. He toured NARO and IITA’s research facilities and fields to see the various on-going research activities.

Sanginga was accompanied by Victor Manyong, IITA Director for Eastern Africa, Piet Van Asten, the Uganda Country Representative and some of the regional scientists - Jim Lorenzen, the banana breeder, Danny Coyne, a Nematologist  and Fen Beed, a Plant Pathologist, in many of the visits.  

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