Friday, July 19, 2013

How Africa can feed Africa

IITA DG Sanginga speaking at the AASW in Accra
Efforts by Africans to feed themselves and escape the food importation trap and put the continent on the path to economic growth must give attention to soil fertility, according to the Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Dr Nteranya Sanginga. Addressing participants at the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week organized by the Forum of Agriculture Research in Africa (FARA) in Accra, Dr Sanginga highlighted the impact of agricultural research over the years and concluded that Africa must adopt scientific innovations and pay attention to natural resource management to drive the agricultural development agenda.
“The issue of soil fertility must be addressed if Africa wants to feed itself,” he said today.
The IITA boss expressed optimism for Africa’s agricultural transformation, highlighting the increasing attention being paid to agriculture by governments on the continent.
However, he reiterated that efforts need to focus on restoring soil fertility, creating an enabling environment for market policies, and developing more resilient and productive farm systems.
He warned against policies that limit African researchers from taking advantage of modern technologies, stressing that such a move would deprive Africa from making progress and put the continent farther from the African Green Revolution.
The 6th Africa Agricultural Science Week provided an opportunity for Africans and partners to rethink the commitment by African governments 10 years ago which also led to the establishment of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).
CAADP focuses on improving food security, nutrition, and increasing incomes in Africa's largely farming based economies. It aims to do this by raising agricultural productivity by at least 6% per year and increasing public investment in agriculture to 10% of national budgets per year. So far, only a few countries have met the CAADP targets.
Dr Kanayo Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), said there is still a lot to be done in the context of the ever-changing and increasing challenges choking agricultural development in Africa.
He noted that the world is producing enough but that the food is not reaching those that need it most.
"We must put our efforts both in improving productivity and reducing postharvest losses," he added.
The IFAD President called for a paradigm shift in addressing food insecurity in Africa.
According to him, research and development need to be “repositioned” into research for development to bring the benefits of research to the farm. He advised scientists to ensure that their research is in consonance with the reality on ground and that it addresses the challenges of development in an empirical manner.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

How can Africa feed Africa?

Photos at AASW in Accra

IITA staff with Prof Lateef Sanni at the CGIAR booth
L-R: Dr Adekunle of FARA and DG Sanginga
L-R: Dr Papa Seck and DG Sanginga
L-R: Drs Sanginga, Papa Seck, and IFAD President, Dr Kanayo Nwanze
L-R: Dr Monty Jones, FARA Executive Director  and Dr Nteranya Sanginga, IITA DG, share
 thoughts on how Africa can feed Africa at the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week in Accra 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Top international scientists recommend increase in public funding for cassava sector

Researchers at the IITA side event in Accra
International top-level scientists from the cassava world have urged African governments to increase public funding for the cassava sector. In the long-expected event “Productivity, Processes and People: Adding Value to Cassava” organized by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) on 16 July 2013 at the 6th African Agricultural Science Week in Accra, disease control, technology development in cassava processing, and women’s participation in cassava research were identified as priorities for boosting the sector’s impact on food security in Africa.
“Increasing funding for cassava research and processing across the value chain by including women in decision making roles is necessary for the future of the continent. It contributes to the creation of jobs for the youth, better livelihoods for smallholder farmers, reduction in hunger and poverty, and food security for all ”, says Dr Elizabeth Parkes from IITA.
Cassava in Africa is threatened by two devastating diseases, Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) and Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD), leading to potential losses in food security and livelihoods of 135 million people in East Africa alone, and the 300 million cassava consumers in Africa as a whole.
Both diseases are caused by viruses and transmitted by small insects called whiteflies. New, super-abundant whiteflies have emerged in Uganda, spreading south and west, and are now present as far south as Zambia and as far west as Cameroon. The diseases are also spread by stem cuttings taken from infected plants. The international movement of these cuttings is increasing rapidly—within and beyond Africa—the diseases could spread to the rest of Africa and, possibly, the rest of the cassava-producing world. If CBSD reaches Nigeria—the world’s biggest producer and consumer of cassava—it could cause a human catastrophe of unforeseen magnitude.
Proper management of the crisis would allow cassava to develop its full potential for improving food security in Africa, not only as a subsistence crop, but also for generating income. “If Africa takes advantage of cassava and supports favorable policy frameworks and tax policies for the processing and marketing cassava and other crops, then we will more effectively tackle many problems in food security for the continent ,” Dr Parkes explained...Read more on

Farmers in twenty African countries get new window of opportunity to significantly increase yield

Participant at the SARD SC Side Event in Accra
Efforts to transform agriculture in Africa have received a boost as researchers met under the Support for Agricultural Research and Development of Strategic Crops (SARD-SC)’s event, “Partners, Possibilities and Prospects,” on 15 July 2013 at the 6th African Agricultural Science Week in Accra to draw more support from partners into project.
The SARD-SC project will raise the productivity of maize, cassava, wheat, and rice by 20% in twenty selected countries in Africa.
The plan is to reduce food importation from other continents and offer farmers better access to markets, improve livelihoods, and tackle poverty through enhanced capacities of beneficiaries to sustainable development in the region.
About a million farmers will directly benefit from the project through its innovations basket, while another million and half will be reached by project spin off effects. “Narrowing the yield gap is key for African farmers, and it will help them to compete globally and to feed themselves,” says Project Coordinator of SARD-SC, Dr Chrysantus Akem, from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).  
Funded by the African Development Bank with US$ 63.24 million, SARD-SC also aims to create knowledge on the tested innovations with farmers in Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, DR Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Drs Thomas Dubois, SARD SC Rice Commodity Specialist; and Solomon Assefa, SARD SC Wheat Commodity Specialist made presentations on rice and wheat strategies of the project.
The 5-year, multi-CGIAR center initiative will run until 2016, and will be co-implemented by three Africa-based CGIAR centers: IITA, Africa Rice Center, and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas. IITA is also the Executing Agency of the project. Another CGIAR center – the International Food Policy Research Institute – a specialized technical agency, will support the other three centers. ###
For more information, please contact: Godwin Atser,; Chrysantus Akem,  or Andrea Gros,

Farmers get provitamin A cassava planting materials for 2013 planting season

Farmers collecting vitamin A cassava varieties for 2013 planting season
Researchers have begun the dissemination of pro-vitamin A cassava varieties to rural households as part of efforts to tackle vitamin A deficiency in Nigeria. Popularly known as yellow cassava, these new improved varieties hold part of the solution to Vitamin A deficiency in Africa. It is no longer news that vitamin A deficiency is widespread in Nigeria, afflicting about 20% of pregnant women and 30% of children below the age of 5. A deficiency in vitamin A leads to poor health, blindness, stunting, and even death.
Through decades of conventional breeding efforts, researchers at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in partnership with the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike, with funds from HarvestPlus, have been able to develop provitamin A cassava varieties to tackle this malnutrition menace.
The plan is to ensure that over two million farmers have access to vitamin A cassava stems for planting across the major cassava producing states in Nigeria with initial emphasis on Akwa Ibom, Benue, Imo and Oyo States as regional hubs.  HarvestPlus and partners plan to distribute 300,000 bundles of stems to 100,000 households in Nigeria in 2013 alone. Currently, more than 40,000 traceable farmers in Akwa Ibom, Abia, Anambra, Benue, Edo, Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Ekiti and River states received stems in June and July, while more states will receive stems before the end of August. This is possible because over 500 hectares of the vitamin A varieties were proactively multiplied in 2012. Stakeholders believe that rural households deserve better nutrition and the consumption of more nutritious crops is a good opportunity to reduce malnutrition globally.
Two Champions in Anambra State, His Royal Highness Igwe Obi Odimegwu, the Igwe Akwu-udughudu of Ubahuekwem Autonomous Community and His Royal Highness Igwe Gabriel Umeh, the Ezeudemba of Akwaezikenyi Kingdom, both in Ihiala LGA, were united in their efforts to introduce vitamin A cassava to their people to contribute to food and health security. In a very colorful ceremony held at Ihudim primary school Ihiala where over 500 farmers received planting materials of the new varieties, the two Kings praised the Federal government, IITA, NRCRI and HarvestPlus for making vitamin A cassava available to farmers in their communities. They pledged to partner with HarvestPlus in ensuring that all farmers in the local government produce, consume, and market vitamin A cassava products.
Paul Ilona, Country Manager for HarvestPlus advised farmers to cultivate the varieties and consume them sufficiently especially for the under 5 children and pregnant women for better health and nutrition. He also encouraged farmers to give stems to their neighbors at the time of harvest to ensure rapid dissemination of planting materials.
Besides improving the health and nutrition of the people, the cultivation of the varieties can provide jobs, improve incomes and lift poor households out of poverty.
Consumers love the varieties because of their nutritional qualities and they can be processed into several dishes.
 During the dissemination exercises across the states in Nigeria, the Nutrition Unit of HarvestPlus displayed a variety of novel products that mothers could produce using the provitamin A cassava to enrich their family nutrition. Products displayed included cassava moi-moi, chin- chin, gari,and fufu. The success being recorded in the dissemination of these new varieties will be presented at the Africa Agriculture Science Week in Accra Ghana. The Science Week is organized by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa.


Yam strategy for Nigeria underway

Researchers and partners met at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan last week to draw a strategy for yam for Nigeria. The strategy aims to put yam on the national agenda as the oil-rich nation embarks on efforts to transform its agricultural sector.
IITA convened the meeting and participants were drawn from other national research institutes such as the Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi (FIIRO), Lagos; the agricultural development programs (ADPs), the private sector and other key stakeholders/actors in the yam value chain.
Addressing participants at the workshop, Dr Robert Asiedu, IITA Director for West Africa reechoed the importance of yam not only in Nigeria, but also globally.
He said the need to draw a strategy for yam is driven by the desire to harness the exceptional qualities of the crop which are yet to be fully exploited for economic growth and food security.
"The strategy will guide us in ensuring synergies and focus on real priorities as we work with partners to unlock the potential of yams" he said.
With about 68 percent of global output coming from Nigeria, yam plays a key role in the country and the West Africa region as a whole, contributing to protein and dietary calorie intake. The crop is also used for cultural events including marriages and annual festivals.
However, yam production is declining in some traditional producing areas due to declining soil fertility, increasing pest pressures and the high cost of labor, Dr Asiedu said, a reason why a roadmap for the crop is imperative.
So far, Ghana has developed its strategy, paving the way for increased export and other industrial uses for the crop.
Dr Antonio Lopez, IITA Yam Breeder, said having a strategy for yam that would dovetail into the national agricultural policy of the government would bring several benefits to the country, including increase in economic development.
Participants commended IITA for convening the participatory meeting and bringing yam to the front burner. According to them, the strategy would enhance more coordinated efforts towards addressing the constraints to increased yam production in the country, and would give farmers the opportunity to improve their incomes and better their livelihoods.
The participatory meeting in Ibadan was co-facilitated by Ms Sylvia Oyinlola, IITA Regional Administrator for West Africa.
The yam strategy meeting in IITA Ibadan is coming ahead of the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week, which begins on 15 July 2013 and is being organized by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), in Ghana.

For more information, please contact: Godwin Atser,