DRC Prime Minister agrees to be champion of youth program

DG Nteranya Sanginga and Chiji Chinedum Ojukwu from the African Development Bank (AfDB) recently met with His Excellency, Hon. Augustin Matata Mpoyo, the Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo, for a briefing on the Youth Agripreneurship Program which AfDB will finance.

Picture of DG Nteranya Sanginga (right) and the DRC Prime Minister (center)
DG Nteranya Sanginga (right) and the DRC Prime Minister (center)

The Prime Minister spoke very highly of newly elected AfDB President Akin Adesina, former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of Nigeria, calling his selection as president as historic and a blessing for the growth of the continent’s agriculture sector and rural development. A farmer, himself, he traced his own humble beginnings from the rural sector and reiterated his government’s commitment to the development of agriculture and the rural space.

According to him, the DRC government had sent a formal request for financing the youth program in agribusiness, and an initial funding for a donor conference to mobilize additional resources for the program. The Prime Minister said that they are upscaling the IITA Youth Agripreneur model and providing credit to graduates to set up their own enterprises after graduating from the incubation platform. He fully endorses the approach and has asked the Bank to accelerate this and to turn commitment into results.
Because of his enthusiasm about the youth program, the prime minister was asked to be a Champion for the Youth Program, which he gladly accepted, to help advocate for the initiative continent-wise.

IITA would be providing support for initiatives that would make a difference in DRC with its abundant potentials.

Young people vouch for agriculture to fight joblessness

18 August was  United Nation’s Youth day to create awareness on the importance of  engaging youth politically, economically and socially which is  essential for the achievement of  sustainable human development.  We speak to a few of the young people engaged in Agriculture at IITA to hear their  experiences and views on how to engage young people in agriculture and research. 

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Members of the Tanzania Youth Agripreneurs pose for a group photo as they prepare to plant vegetables in their greenhouse

Veronica Kebwe, is the chairlady of Tanzania Youth Agripreneurs (TYA), a group of young people that have come together to engage in agribusiness with support from IITA and other partners. She has been providing leadership to the group since its formation, one a half years ago and says the group has been making progress in their agribusiness ventures.

VERONICA KEBWE
Veronica Kebwe, chairlady of the TYA

“TYA members are now well equipped with agribusiness entrepreneurship skills. Currently we are producing/processing high quality cassava flour, soy milk/yoghurt, making various food products from cassava, growing tomatoes and providing weed management service through safe use of herbicides.

“For the time I have been leading TYA, I have discovered that there are many agriculture opportunities that the youth can utilize for their own development. However, they need to be patient and committed. Many youth who engage in agriculture expect to make a profit within a short time and they give up when this does not happen.

“Capacity building is also very important. If youth are provided with enough capital, they cannot be productive and benefit from agribusiness, unless they are well trained.”

On today’s youth day she encourages youth to be their own problem solvers. “Agriculture can be a solution to unemployment. There are many opportunities in the agriculture sector. The youth should keep their eyes and ears open, and be ready to put effort to benefit from agribusiness. Youth can be at the forefront of action to fight poverty. ”

Plenty of opportunities to be exploited

MARIAM SENN
Mariam Senn, member TYA

“Before joining the group, I had very little knowledge on agribusinesses. Now I realize there are a lot of opportunities in agribusiness that we young people can explore to create income for ourselves. People need food to survive, but not only food, but healthy food, so we are assured of a market for our agriculture produces,” says Mariam A. Sein, also a member of the TYA.

“I have learned a lot from all the training we have received, such as on cassava production/management, soy processing/production and applications of herbicide for weed management. I am now capable of producing/processing soymilk and making and cooking various cassava recipes such as donuts.

“Being a member of TYA has not only changed my mindset on agribusiness, but also exposed me to a lot of opportunities through the travels to other countries in sub-Saharan African countries and getting to meet and connect with fellow youth with interest in agriculture.

Maria observes that very few youth are engaged in agriculture. “This is because many of them perceive agriculture as an ‘inferior’ sector. Much still needs to be done to change this mindset and make the youth aware about the opportunities they can get from the agriculture sector.

On this youth day, Maria appreciates all ongoing efforts from governments to donors and institutions such as IITA to empower youth to find creative ways to generate income for themselves, She also urges the youth to keep their eyes open for any opportunities.

Equip youth with sufficient knowledge

“I simply enjoy what  I am doing as it contributes to controlling diseases that attack  farmers’ produce  and contributes to the country’s development,” says Christopher Mduda, a bachelor’s degree holder of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology and an intern at the IITA Eastern Africa hub conducting research under the supervision of IITA senior scientist James Legg.

Christopher Mduda photo image
Christopher Mduda: intern at IITA

He has been extracting DNA from cassava leaves and describes his stint with IITA as a wonderful learning experience that has built his confidence in performing molecular research.

“Most youth have negative perceptions about agriculture. This is because youth are not well exposed to many of the opportunities available. The youth are active and energetic; they can be at the core of development if they are equipped with sufficient agriculture knowledge and fully supported. They can make marvelous changes in the society”.

Ruben
Reuben Samweli: Research Technician

Reuben S. Samweli, an IITA Research Technician with a degree in Biotechnology and laboratory, also says youth engagement in agriculture is key for development and tackling the high levels of  unemployment in many countries.

“Engaging youth in agriculture sectors can help deter them from engaging in anti-social behaviors such as drug addiction, alcoholism, sexual addiction, and crime. However, the support received from government and non-government organizations is inadequate. There is also poor flow of information.

“There is a need to provide information on existing opportunities to the youth across the country. There are many programs/project launched for supporting youth development; however the youth are not able to engage and benefit from them as they are not aware of them. If the youth are fully engaged in agriculture, they can play a big role in reducing levels of unemployment.

“The youth have a great role to play in supporting development and they should sufficiently be empowered, well involved, and linked with key players in the agricultural sector.”

 IITA support to Tanzania Youth

IITA is currently running a program to empower youth to use agriculture as a tool to tackle youth unemployment across sub-Saharan Africa through training and by supporting them to carry out various agribusinesses. The program, IITA Youth Agripreneurs, was launched in 2012 at IITA Headquarters in Ibadan, Nigeria. In Tanzania, the program started in January 2014 at IITA’s Eastern Africa hub in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and is supervised by Adebayo Abass, IITA’s Value Addition Specialist at the hub.

The group is currently engaged in processing soymilk, high quality cassava flour with the brand name Mpishi Mkuu, selling maize, and growing tomatoes. The group is also benefiting in participating in youth programs across the world, and members are exposed and linked with potential development actors within and outside the country.

IITA is also constructing a training center at a cost of US$1.5 million at Kwembe (about 25 km from Dar es Salaam City center) to equip the youth with skills in production and processing and running successful agribusinesses.

IITA DG: How southern Africa can unleash its agriculture potential

Director General Nteranya Sanginga has called on southern African countries to tap the youth population in the region to address food insecurity and end unemployment.

Addressing policymakers and the youth in the region at a conference organized by the Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development in Southern Africa (CCARDESA), Sanginga said the youth population in the region should be seen as an asset, not a problem.

“The youth have the energy, and if we are able to tap this energy we will be able to advance agriculture on the continent,” said Sanginga who was represented by Alfred Dixon Head of IITA’s Partnerships Coordination Office, in Durban, South Africa, 3-6 August.

Picture of Dr Alfred Dixon in Durban, South Africa
Dr Alfred Dixon representing Dr Nteranya Sanginga in Durban, South Africa

Speaking on the topic “Unlocking agribusiness opportunities for youth in Southern Africa”, the DG gave an account of how a youth program called IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA) initiated by IITA in 2012 is attracting youth into agriculture.

“From zero dollars, these youths have been able to grow their incomes to $700 per month,” he explained. “On their own, these young men and women are today managing different enterprises including cassava, maize, vegetables, soybean, banana and plantains, fish, and livestock,” he added.

According to him, the experience of the IITA youth program clearly demonstrated that with institutional support and mentoring, the youth could be engaged in agriculture to make a decent living.

Mustapha Quadri, a member of IYA, gave also gave a presentation titled “Cassava production, processing, and marketing” during a break-away session on the subtheme “The role of youth in innovations and agribusiness solution: Cassava case study“.

The presentation was based on the various products and value addition that can be derived from cassava. Participants visiting the exhibition stands liked the various cassava products showcased in the exhibition.

In his keynote address, the Executive Director, Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), Yemi Akinbamijo said, “The agricultural sector needs to be transformed to provide employment for the youth in Africa and we need to increase value addition to attract the youth.”

The Executive Director of CCARDESA, Timothy Simalenga commended IITA and other partners for initiating youth programs to attract the youth into agriculture, and emphasized that CCARDESA would continue to support agricultural development in the region with emphasis on getting more youth engaged in agriculture.

IITA participants included Godwin Atser, Ugheoke Avoedoghia Diana, Christophe Kongolo, Caroline Liwena, Bupe Gwasa, Ronald Ongario, and Christine Zamugurha.

IITA in good financial health

Picture of Director General Nteranya Sanginga
Director General Nteranya Sanginga

Notwithstanding the 19% budget cut announced by the CGIAR earlier this year, Director General Nteranya Sanginga has assured members of the IITA community of the strong financial standing of the Institute. He also reminded staff of the need for reserves and a strong resource mobilization strategy.

In a memo sent out on 5 August, Sanginga announced an increase of $4.405 million in the budget of CGIAR Research Programs between November 2014 and June 2015 and enjoined staff to increase efficiency in execution rates of projects and to also continue to deliver to win donors’ trust.

“In general,” said Sanginga, “the Institute is in good financial health compared to the same period last year. The June 2015 financial statements continued to reflect IITA’s healthy financial position despite the fact that we are already halfway through the calendar year and there has still been no disbursement of any 2015 Windows 1 and 2 funds from the CGIAR Fund Office. That means we have already in 2015 pre-financed about $18 million (and counting) from our bilateral funds…although still challenging, I am optimistic that 2015 will be much better than 2014.”

The DG also highlighted major avenues currently being explored to ensure that the Institute continues to stay relevant and resilient in the coming years. One such opportunity is the IITA Youth Agribusiness Development initiative.

“The IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA) is now very active in DR Congo, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia, and has participated in many events, demonstrating how the youth can create their own employment. This program is one of the priorities of the Obama Administration and IITA is linking with USAID for more impact.”

He added that as a major activity, IITA will develop a program titled Empowering Novel Agribusiness-Led Employment for Youth in Africa (ENABLE Youth) to be funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB) alongside other donors including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

“IYA which started here at IITA is a priority in the Strategic Research Framework of CGIAR and is mainstreamed in major AfDB and IFAD agricultural loans to be managed by IITA. This is already happening in Cameroon, DR Congo, Tunisia, and Uganda, and we expect this to be done in 20 countries by 2017.”

The DG also reported that Ylva Hillbur, DDG, Research for Development, has provided an update on the involvement of IITA in the CRPII pre-proposals in which IITA actively pursued and negotiated for flagship leadership positions in seven CRPII pre-proposals: Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM), MAIZE, Dryland Cereals and Legumes Agri-Food Systems (DCLAS), Roots, Tubers and Banana (RTB), Nutrition and Health, Climate Change, and Genebanks.

IITA and NASC call for greater involvement of private sector in seed yam production

Top seed production companies from across Nigeria convened at IITA on 6 August to explore novel technologies for high-ratio propagation of seed yam tubers.

IITA scientists working on the Yam Improvement for Income and Food Security in West Africa (YIIFSWA) project have developed novel high ratio propagation technologies such as vine cuttings, aeroponics, and bioreactor to address the constraints of quality, rapidity, and multiplication in seed yam production.

According to Robert Asiedu, IITA’s Director for West Africa, “The unavailability and high cost of high quality seed yam is the primary constraint in West Africa with the food security of about 900 million people heavily dependent on the availability and affordability of seed tubers.”

Traditionally, farmers use tubers as seeds, which is inefficient and costly. High production costs are attributed to the use of seed yam tubers, which account for about 30% of the total yield and as much as 63% of the total variable cost incurred per season of cultivation. Moreover,  most of the tubers are of low quality, containing pests (nematodes) and pathogens (virus), which decrease the yield of yam tubers.

Furthermore, using the traditional system, the multiplication rate in the field is also very low. In comparison to cereals which produce about 300 seeds from a single stock, yam produces about 1 to 5 tubers depending on the variety.

Norbert Maroya briefs seed company representatives visiting IITA.
Norbert Maroya briefs seed company representatives visiting IITA.

YIIFSWA Project Manager Norbert Maroya says: “Producing seed yam tubers using aeroponics, bioreactors, and vine cuttings is quick and cost effective, resulting in high-quality planting materials. The use of these novel, high-ratio propagation technologies gives a higher multiplication rate that is about 50-100 times more than the traditional system. It also significantly lowers the risk of nematode infestation and promotes faster multiplication and better and more uniform crop quality.”

“Seed is one of the most crucial elements in the livelihoods of agricultural communities. However, farmers—yam farmers in particular—are yet to benefit from using quality seed tubers because of inefficient seed production, and lack of distribution and quality assurance systems in the country. That is why we are calling for greater involvement of the private sector in the establishment of a formal seed system with the yam value chain,” said Ebenezer Zidafomor, a representative from the National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC). Participants came from Greengold Construct Nig. Ltd, Mamora Seeds Ltd, Da Allgreen Seeds Ltd, Bumfash Nigeria Ltd, Biocrops Ltd, NASC, all based in Abuja; Sylva Ejezie Farm Ltd, Asaba, Delta State; Lumiere Seeds Limited, Premier Seeds Nigeria Limited, Zaria, Kaduna; Romarey Ventures Limited, Jos; and Samlak Industries Ltd, Ibadan.

According to Lava Kumar, head of IITA’s germplasm health unit, “The new technologies for the production of virus-free plants and versatile diagnostic tools for virus indexing established in the YIIFSWA project are critically contributing to the development of clean seed yam systems.”

There is a need for government, research institutions, and the private sector to collaborate and develop solutions for the provision of food, poverty relief, and resource equity.

IITA works with various international and national institutions such as NASC through projects such as YIIFSWA. YIIFSWA’s goal is to help stop the decline and double the productivity of yam in the major producing countries, Ghana and Nigeria, that would stimulate a sustainable increase in incomes for smallholder yam producers and contribute to their food security and economic development.

Does Uganda sufficiently address gender inequalities in climate policies?

While climate and development policies in Uganda are becoming more gender sensitive, there is still a lot to be done in their formulation, regulatory framework, and implementation to ensure that they adequately cater to women and men´s needs in the effort to reduce vulnerabilities and build resilience to the impacts of climate change.

This is one of the findings of a study by gender researchers from IITA and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) on how women and gender issues are framed in climate and development policies in Uganda. The aim of the study was to better understand how gender is addressed in national policies and identify gaps.

The research team conducting focus groups discussions with men and women in the two districts.
The research team conducting focus groups discussions with men and women in the two districts.

The study was conducted under the Policy Action for Climate Change Adaptation (PACCA) project that is led by IITA as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

The team studied seven agricultural policies and five national plans, conducted key informant interviews, and held focus group discussions with men and women in two districts in Uganda—Rakai and Nwoya. A summary of the findings of the study was published by CCAFS in an infonote and a blog article written by one of the researchers, Mariola Acosta, a Research Fellow and PhD student at Wageningen University, The Netherlands.

‘Victims’ or ‘key agents of change’: The team found that the usage of the terminologies ‘women’ and ‘gender’ in the various national policies could reinforce gender stereotypes. Women are depicted as either vulnerable victims or associated with vulnerability or, on one hand, seen as ‘key agents of change’ crucial for successful development and climate work.

Researchers said that reinforcing gender stereotypes leads to simplification of development work instead of putting in place strategies to address key, structural gender imbalances combined with further analyses to better understand what men and women really need and want to successfully adapt to climate change.

Everybody’s business is nobody’s business: The study also found that since climate and gender issues were cross-cutting issues mainstreamed across ministries and departments, this led to lack of clear structures for enforcement and mechanisms to monitor gender mainstreaming activities.

IMG_0970_c (2)fgds2Influence of customs and traditions: The majority of the policies and plans reviewed also failed to adequately address the gender power dynamics existing at different levels and the structural gender inequalities and power structures that underpin women’s vulnerability to climate change. For example, in the two districts, customary laws and traditions greatly influence the governance of rural communities relegating the formal policies and by-laws to the background.

According to Acosta, the research team hopes that by sharing these insights, the policymakers, advisors, and development practitioners in East Africa will be more aware of the current status of gender policies and to better understand how to address gender inequalities in climate change and development plans and policies. This will help empower both men and women to effectively adapt to climate change and build a prosperous and food-secure future.

Yam scientist shares knowledge on yam development in Japan

Hidehiko Kikuno, a former IITA scientist, visited the Institute recently and gave an overview on yam research and development by the yam research team led by Prof Hironobu Shiwachi at the Tokyo University of Agriculture (TUA) Miyako-subtropical farm in Japan.

Hidehiko Kikuno makes a presentation at IITA about yam research and development at the Tokyo University of Agriculture, Japan.
Hidehiko Kikuno makes a presentation at IITA about yam research and development at the
Tokyo University of Agriculture, Japan.

IITA has the world mandate on yam research and works with various institutions such as TUA on the advancement of yam for income generation and food security. IITA signed a memorandum of agreement with TUA in 2012 and has facilitated some of its research on yam and capacity building of prospective research scientists from Japan.

At the seminar, Kikuno presented the findings of key exploratory studies on polyploid breeding of water yam (Dioscorea alata), nitrogen fixation in water yam, mechanization of yam propagation, as well as breeding for yam utilization and processing.

Results of the first phase of the exploratory research on polyploidy breeding showed how the physical characteristics of water yam could be enhanced, and thus affect the yield of the tuber. This is a key finding that could contribute to breeding for high yield variety. However, Kikuno indicated that more work needs to be done on agronomic traits such as tuber yield.Yam propagation involves a lot of drudgery and strenuous agronomic practices and at Miyako-jima, researchers are working on eliminating drudgery in yam propagation through mechanization. With funding from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), researchers have been able to use common tractors for ridging, mulching, and harvesting on yam. Moreover, a popular planting machine for vegetable seedlings was improved and tested for yam vine propagation.

Kikuno also indicated that new varieties of water yam have been selected for mechanized cultivation. Tubers are round in shape and have less root hair. In terms of value addition and utilization, Kikuno reported that researchers and food processors are working together on new yam products such as distilled spirit made from water yam and fresh yam products sold in supermarkets.

“Yam is very important in the Japanese diet,” Kikuno said. Traditionally, Chinese yam (Dioscorea polystachya) or jinenjo (D. japonica) in Japan is served as a vegetable in Asian homes. Regarded as the “medicine of the mountain”, yamaimo’s health benefits are numerous, providing consumers with substantial amounts of carbohydrates, proteins, thiamine, and vitamin C.

In a separate interview, Kikuno, who spearheads progressive yam research at TUA, indicated that the development of the yam value chain in Miyako-Jima, Japan has been going on under an industry-academia or industry-government-academia partnership. “In Miyako-Jima (island), I work closely with farmers, private industry, researchers, and the government to come up with innovations,” Kikuno said. This can also be replicated in Nigeria, the world’s largest producer of yam.

Agricultural developments and innovations are vital to the African economy desperately in need of job creation. Researchers are making breakthroughs across the yam value chain and for these innovations to grow into job-creating commercial products and services investments in industry-academia or industry-government-academia partnerships are needed.

DR Congo partners trained on post-flask management of tissue culture banana

Participants during the field visit.
Participants during the field visit.

IITA and AGROBIOTEC Lab in Bujumbura, Burundi, organized a hands-on training for field technicians in DR Congo on post-flask management of tissue culture banana on 22-26 June.

The training was organized in the framework of the partnership project with Food for the Hungry International (FH) DR Congo under the USAID/DFAP project. Participants came from FH, Institut National d’Etude et Recherche Agronomique (INERA), Université Catholique de Bukavu (UCB), and IITA Kalambo.

The purpose of the training was to strengthen partners’ capacity to produce and introduce healthy planting material to rehabilitate bacterial wilt (BXW)-infected fields in Eastern DR Congo. BXW has devastated banana fields in Eastern DRC, rendering producers redundant with limited income sources.

The training was led by Emmanuel Njukwe of IITA Burundi and facilitated by Rishirumuhirwa Théodomir of AGROBIOTEC Lab in Burundi and Niyongere Célestin of ISABU. Training modules included banana breeding for new and improved varieties, preparation of ex-plant, aseptic culture, rooting and weaning for field establishment.

Why go Open Access… Excerpts from a discussion with Martin Mueller, E-Research Coordinator and Database and Knowledge Manager

Should the rest of the world have unlimited, free, and unrestricted access to findings from our research through the Internet? What would be the implications for IITA and its science? The debate has lingered on for a very long time.

In a recent interview, Martin Mueller makes a case for Open Access (OA) by highlighting the benefits, the implications for future and ongoing research by the Institute, and the changes scientists must look forward to starting in September 2015.

Martin Mueller
Martin Mueller

In explaining OA, Martin said that it is a global trend, a movement that is already 20 years old but had become more pressing because of the numerous opportunities provided by the Internet in developing repositories (archives) that can harvest data from very distributed or dispersed sources and make data much more discoverable.

“If you ‘open’ data then you also open them for completely different user groups and research purposes; farmers, engineer, traders, and development agencies may have a deep interest in our data and publications. In all, they contribute piece by piece to change and that is what we want; we want impact. The donors do not fund research for the sake of doing research; they fund research to get impact. IITA is a research-for-development institution so our work is for a purpose. OA is able to unlock potentials by spreading information itself and by inspiring people in different knowledge contexts…going OA is also a signal to donor agencies that IITA stands by its responsibility.”

“Let us imagine a situation 20 years from now,” he continued. “Let’s imagine that IITA has not gone for OA. All other agricultural research institutes would be having a strong sharing approach, not only by sharing data with one another but also by being supplied with data by all others. This might not be the case for IITA. I doubt that other research institutes would share their data with IITA if they did not receive the same from IITA.”

Martin further highlighted that most of the challenges restricting scientists from going OA can be effectively addressed by accompanying data with proper, informative metadata (additional accompanying data, e.g., source, date, venue, file type, etc.) and with a proper peer review.

Open Access was defined by the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) as follows: “By ‘open access’ to literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.”

“The world is changing rapidly and IITA will be missing the train if it does not go OA as well. So change is the price we have to pay to keep pace. There are challenges that we need to consider. For example, we need to react if a researcher has doubts that the ‘right’, knowledgeable people get the data or if the quality of further processing open data is adequate. This can be solved by accompanying open data with proper metadata. This ensures that the scientist is cited correctly. When we open our data, we do that bound by the restriction that users all over the world must cite us. If we don’t, then people will build their own interpretation and use the open data for an inadequate, ‘rough and dirty’ analysis, resulting in wrong recommendations and so to an anti-productive impact… What we get back when we give our data is visibility and visibility is the future currency in research.”

According to Martin, IITA is in the process of enlisting with the CG Space repository of OA. Several activities are ongoing, such as designing the workflows and communicating what must be done: setting up, data migration, adding metadata, training staff, etc. Once these activities are completed, hopefully in September, IITA will launch this platform together with a new version of CG Space.

From research plots to farmers’ fields: Africa RISING – NAFAKA project partners plan scaling up of improved crop varieties

Partners implementing activities under the Africa RISING – NAFAKA scaling project held their first annual review and planning meeting  8-10 July, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where they discussed effective ways of scaling up improved crop varieties to Tanzania’s smallholder farmers. The meeting was attended by over 30 participants including representatives from CGIAR centers and organizations from the research and development sector overseeing scaling activities in the project.

The project was launched in October 2014 through funding by the USAID mission in Tanzania. It is working
to support ongoing research by Africa RISING to disseminate best-
practice technologies on vegetables, maize, rice, and postharvest methods that can sustainably increase farm productivity.

“Holding this meeting where we can discuss the implementation issues and carry out joint planning is absolutely essential if we are to reach the target of 47,000 beneficiary households in maize- and rice-based systems within the country,” noted Haroon Sseguya, Africa RISING Technology Scaling Specialist. “The team is also aiming to expand the area under improved rice production technologies to 116,000 hectares and increase both maize and rice yields by 50%.”

Participants at the meeting discussed the experiences from year 1 of implementing project activities and used the lessons learned as a basis to plan better for year 2. Some of the emerging issues raised by partners from year 1 included partnership challenges; difficulties of seed distribution networks in the country and how to overcome them; reporting on USAID/Feed the Future indicators; as well as the best approaches for scaling up and scaling out technologies.

A significant output from the meeting was the development of work plans
for year 2 by all partners in a round
table set-up that allowed more integrated planning. For the scaling approach to be used in year 2, it was resolved that all partners would be expected to continue making visits to the “mother farmers” in the initial project intervention sites even after establishing new “baby sites.”

Training sessions on project communication tools and monitoring and evaluation were also conducted as a means to improve project reporting and documentation during the three-day meeting.

“Through this meeting we were able to come up with work plans that we will manage to implement together with our fellow partners who are working in the same geographical sites. This is very important to the success of the project,” explained Kalimuthu Senthilkumar, Systems Agronomist at AfricaRice Center.

Veronica Uzokwe, Agronomist/SARD-SC Tanzania Country Coordinator, noted that the meeting was important in helping partners to achieve, within a short time, what they could not have completed   while working from different project locations.

“We brainstormed and came up with ideas to fast-track the process of meeting project objectives as a team and not as independent Institutes. The fact that we had representatives from AVRDC, AfricaRice, IITA, NAFAKA, World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF), International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), KATRIN, TAMASA, ARI-ILONGA, ARI-HOMBOLO, and others around the same table enriched our discussions and facilitated  decision making about next year’s activities,” she said.

The Project Management Team (PMT), which is responsible for providing oversight on project activities, also held its inaugural meeting, chaired by Dr Irmgard Hoeschle-Zeledon, Africa RISING Coordinator for West Africa and East/Southern Africa. Key decisions taken by the PMT included the need for all project partners to involve local government authorities in their activities as much as possible, the way forward on reporting on Feed the Future indicators, and the development of success stories.

L-R: Gaudiose Mujawamariya and Kalimuthu Senthilkumar (AfricaRice), Elisha Mkandya (ILONGA Agricultural Research Institute), and Silvanus Mruma (NAFAKA) discuss the proposed work plan for the rice team’s year 2 activities (Photo credit: IITA/Gloriana Ndibalema).
L-R: Gaudiose Mujawamariya and Kalimuthu Senthilkumar (AfricaRice), Elisha
Mkandya (ILONGA Agricultural Research Institute), and Silvanus Mruma (NAFAKA)
discuss the proposed work plan for the rice team’s year 2 activities (Photo credit:
IITA/Gloriana Ndibalema).