Wednesday, October 1, 2014

IITA and Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology cement their partnership on agriculture research

From left: Prof Burton Mwamila and Dr Ylva Hilbur, signing an agreement on banana research at the university campus in Arusha, Tanzania.

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the pan-African NelsonMandela African Institution of Science and Technology (NM-AIST)  have further strengthened their collaboration on agriculture research and capacity building in Tanzania by signing an agreement on banana research.

This agreement,  which spells out how the two institutions will work together to tackle the challenges facing banana production in the country,  was recently signed by the IITA Deputy Director General for Research, Dr Ylva Hilbur, and the NM-AIST Vice Chancellor, Prof Burton Mwamila, at a ceremony at the university campus in Arusha, Tanzania.

  Dr Ylva Hilbur, signing the research agreemen 
According to the agreement, NM-AIST will avail land to IITA land to conduct banana breeding to develop improved varieties that are resistant to pests and diseases and especially Panama disease (Fusarium) which is devastating banana in the region, and office space for use by the institute’s staff.   

It will also give the institute access to its laboratories and screen houses to conduct banana research.

IITA on its part will provide funds to remodel and refurbish the molecular and tissue culture laboratories including purchasing additional equipment. The institute will also construct a seed extractor and a banana ripening chamber at the university. All these facilities will be open to both the staff and students of the university. 

Prof Mwamila perusing agreement before signing it.

The institute further pledged to conduct training for the staff and students at the university in areas of banana breeding, tissue culture, pest and diseases, and molecular biology among others.

Speaking at the agreement signing event, Prof Mwamila said that the university aspired to become a world-class institution dedicated to the pursuit and promotion of excellence in Science Engineering and Technology (SET) and their applications for economic growth and sustainable development in the region by training and developing world class African scientists and engineers.

He therefore noted that the collaboration with an international agriculture research center such as IITA would be very beneficial towards this end. He further said IITA would support the institute to translate research results into tangible products and policy briefs to enable wealth creation and sustainable development.

On her part, Dr Hilbur who is based at the institute’s headquarters in Ibadan, Nigeria, noted that there were numerous opportunities for IITA to collaborate with NM-AIST in research and in training agriculture researchers.

Group photo: IITA and NM-AIST teams at the event
‘Building capacity of researchers in Africa is a very important component of our work at  IITA. This agreement strengthens our already good collaboration with the university and we are looking forward  to even more collaboration in the future to support the development of the agriculture sector in the country and the region,’ she said. 

IITA's Drs Ylva and Baijukya touring the TC lab
Currently the two institutes are collaborating on research on banana through a project funded by the Flemish Interuniversity Council, on nitrogen fixation in beans, and on controlling aflatoxin, a deadly chemical produced by fungi found in crops such as maize and groundnut. 

The new agreement supplements a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two institutions last year in which they agreed to conduct joint research projects, share scientific information and materials including genetic material for breeding, organize exchange programs, and jointly supervise postgraduate students.

Prof  Swennen showing the banana field trials.
Hilbur was accompanied by amog others IITA Director for Eastern Africa Dr Victor Manyong based at its Eastern Africa office in Dar es Salaam, Head of IITA Arusha Office, Prof Bekunda Mateete and Prof Rony Swennen who heads IITA’s banana breeding program based at Arusha. The signing was also witnessed by key staff of the university.