Thursday, June 5, 2014

Central Africa gets a new research facility to deal with emerging challenges in the agricultural sector


IITA Science Building in Kalambo inaugurated today 5 June 2014
...Climate change, increasing population, and declining soil fertility are the  key challenges in the region.

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), an international agriculture research center, has created a research center in Kalambo, south Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to support agricultural development in the Central African region. IITA has been working in DRC for the last 40 years.
The center will be launched today, 5 June  2014, in an event that has attracted key policymakers, representatives of the donor community, development practitioners, researchers, and farmers from DRC and neighboring countries.
The center includes laboratories with state-of-the art  equipment to conduct research and  facilities for  training on the processing of the region’s staple crops, such as cassava and soybean..
While speaking at a press briefing yesterday evening, South Kivu Governor Marcellin Cishambo  noted that although the Central African region, including the DRC with its good climate and abundant natural resources, had high agricultural potential, the sector was still riddled with many challenges.
"Agriculture is the most important sector in DRC. It provides 42% of our GDP and employs over half of our people. However, out of our 80 million hectares of potential agricultural land, only approximately 10% is being used. The Government is therefore very keen to develop this sector to diversify and catalyze the economic development of the country,” he said.
The Director General of IITA, Dr Nteranya Sanginga, noted that the Central African region will become an important bread basket for the continent  as the population of Africa continues to increase and land becomes scarce.
 “With this new center, together with our partners in the region, we are now better equipped to handle the existing and the newly emerging challenges and opportunities in agriculture through research,” Dr Sanginga said. “Research alongside education is one of the most important investments in any country seeking socioeconomic transformation.”
He said that one of the areas where the institute was very keen on working was that of youth unemployment in sub-Saharan Africa by attracting them to agriculture. The institute had initiated the Youth Agripreneurs (agricultural entrepreneurs) program in Nigeria, DRC, and Tanzania. It  had over 120 young members who had received training and were carrying out or initiating  various agribusiness enterprises to earn a living.
Also speaking at the event, Dr Bernard Vanlauwe,  IITA’s Director for Central Africa, said the region was home to one of the few remaining natural forests in Africa, the Congo forest. However, it is rapidly shrinking as the local communities fell the trees to expand their agricultural land to grow food and cash crops and to provide construction material.
“We are working with farmers to increase their agriculture production on land of the same size to reduce the destruction of forests. This is through introducing smart farming practices— the use of high-yielding improved varieties and better farming practices including soil fertility management. For many years our farmers have cropped the same fields, extracting nutrients from the soil without replenishing them because of the low use of organic and inorganic fertilizers.”
“In Eastern DRC, farmers using these smart farming practices in the cassava-legume systems have increased cassava yields by between 30 and 160%. In Western DRC, cassava yields doubled from 12 to 25 t/ha with moderate rates of nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (NPK) fertilizer, and reached over 40 t/ha with higher rates of fertilizer application,” he said.
Last year, IITA launched a similar facility in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, for its Eastern Africa Hub and laid the foundation stone in Lusaka, Zambia, for its facility in Southern Africa..
The construction of science and training centers in the Hubs is in line with the institute’s new refreshed strategy and its vision of becoming a leading research partner, facilitating solutions to the problems of hunger and poverty in Africa.
South Kivu Governor Marcellin Cishambo speaking at the inauguration of the facility

For more information, please contact:

IITA: Andrea Gros, a.gros@cgiar.org

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