DG tours Tanzania; shares new ambitions for IITA and agriculture in Africa

IITA Director General Nteranya Sanginga has just concluded a two-day visit to IITA’s Eastern Africa’s office in Tanzania where he met the Institute’s staff and shared his priority areas of focus for his second term as the head of the Institute.

Picture of IITA Director General Nteranya Sanginga
IITA Director General Nteranya Sanginga

He said he had identified three areas that he was passionate about which had grown in leaps and bounds in his first five-year tenure which ends in a few months.

These are strengthening IITA’s internal corporate services which are crucial to supporting and delivery of the science, the Feed Africa initiative with the Africa Development Bank (AfDB), and building on the success of the youth Agripreneurs program whose objective is to create jobs and income for young people in Africa through agribusiness.

“I have been thinking seriously about this in the last six months: What will I focus on in the next five years if I seek another term as DG? From my experience, a second term is usually very tricky and I wanted to make sure I have new ambitions that will take me out of bed excitedly every morning,” Sanginga said while addressing the staff at the hub.

“We are doing very well in our science; and we have great partnerships from the grassroots all the way to the top level. We have built donor confidence and our business incubation platform is up and running processing aflasafe and NoduMax and we are thinking of adding aeroponics and tissue culture. We now need to strengthen our internal corporate services – finance, HR, and IT. So my second term will focus more inwards to ensure more efficient services.

Feed Africa is a major initiative of the AfDB to transform agriculture in Africa and with it, the Bank was keen to work with CGIAR centers with IITA playing a key role, Sanginga said. “In this regard, we are having a major summit at Headquarters bringing together all the CGIAR centers working in Africa and major donors to kick off the initiative and discuss its implementation.”
He noted that the Agripreneurs program that IITA, under his leadership, started three years ago was already well established in five countries – DRC, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda – and getting a lot of support. For example, in Nigeria, the government was providing support to replicate the program across the country to more states. The AfDB supports the initiative and is keen to take it across the continent. Recently the University of Michigan had expressed interest to work with the group and conduct research on changing the mindset of the youth towards agriculture.

Sanginga also spent time talking to and mentoring the youth in Tanzania as well as visiting their processing center that had been constructed with support from the AfDB. He reminded them that agriculture is one of the sectors that had real potential to create employment and that IITA scientists and researchers were ready to share knowledge and the technologies they are developing.

“Believe in yourselves. Through agriculture and this initiative you can create your own jobs and even employ others.”

He also told the youth that IITA will be counting on them to encourage other youth to go into agribusiness. “We are receiving a lot of support from policy makers in different countries wanting to adopt the program. The AfDB is also keen to start investing in youth in agribusiness across 23 countries in Africa using the IITA model. So we will be counting on some of you to help in this initiative to help change the youth’s mindsets in agriculture in many countries.”

Sanginga was in the hub as part of efforts to keep the staff in the region updated with the latest developments and future plans and keep abreast of what is happening at the hub. He was well received by the team at the hub led by the Director for Eastern Africa, Victor Manyong.

Researchers on one of the world’s most destructive agricultural pests, whitefly, converge in Arusha, Tanzania

Group photo of whitefly scientists attending the event.
Group photo of whitefly scientists attending the event.

The 2nd International Whitefly Symposium (IWS2) is taking place in Arusha, Tanzania, this week, 14-19 February. It has brought together more than a hundred scientists from all over the world to discuss one of the world’s most destructive agricultural pests, the whitefly.

In sub-Saharan Africa, whiteflies are a key threat to food security and efforts to reduce poverty in rural areas as they destroy and spread diseases in important crops of smallholder farmers such as vegetables, beans, cassava, cotton, and sweet potato. The whitefly is the driving force behind the twin cassava mosaic disease (CMD) and cassava brown streak disease (CBSD) pandemics that are currently ravaging cassava production in sub-Saharan Africa.

However, research on whitefly in the continent is inadequate. Apart from a lack of adequate funding, there are very few vector entomologists that could adequately manage the whitefly and associated problems. Therefore scientists from Africa and in particular Tanzania had an opportunity to learn from their colleagues from other countries such as the US, China, Europe, and Australia on new and innovative strategies to control the pest.

Poster session during the symposium.
Poster session during the symposium.

According to the meeting chair, Peter Sseruwagi, from the Mikocheni Agricultural Research Institute (MARI), it was important to bring the symposium to Africa as the continent is currently grappling with how to feed its ever-increasing population in
the face of the twin threats of shrinking agricultural land and climate change.

“This meeting brings together renowned whitefly researchers from over 24 countries, the private sector, and students to share and exchange the latest knowledge on the whitefly. They focused especially on CMD and CBSD, the two viral diseases spread by whiteflies and which have ravaged this key staple crop in sub-Saharan Africa,” Sseruwagi said.

The meeting’s co-chair, James Legg, from IITA, added that “Africa is currently struggling with a wave of new viral diseases that are limiting the productivity of the poor smallholder farmers, who are a majority of the population and are the main food producers. These farmers have limited resources to invest in inputs such as pesticides and herbicides. We need to find sustainable science-based solutions to support them in tackling these challenges.”

The symposium is co-organized by MARI and IITA with the University of Dar es Salaam, Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH), and the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) of Uganda. It is supported by USAID, the USAID-funded Africa RISING initiative, and Zhejiang University, China.

The first International Whitefly Symposium took place in Crete, Greece, in 2013. The Symposium is a series of specialized scientific meetings created out of the merger of the International Bemisia Workshop (IBWS) and the European Whitefly Symposium (EWS).

Project to boost cassava production in Africa through agronomic practices launched in Tanzania

The African Cassava Agronomy Initiative (ACAI) — Taking Agronomy to Scale in Cassava-Based Systems in sub-Saharan Africa, seeking to address this challenge and support smallholder farmers to increase production of cassava through developing good agronomic recommendations, recently launched its activities in Tanzania.

Central Africa Hub Director Bernard Vanlauwe being interviewed by the media.
Central Africa Hub Director Bernard Vanlauwe being interviewed by the media.

Speaking during the project launch at the beginning of this month, Bernard Vanlauwe, IITA’s Director for Central Africa and research leader of natural resource management, said there is a popular myth that cassava does not need fertilizers and can be grown on poor soils. However, if the crop’s production has to increase for food and industrial use, this perception has to change.

This was reiterated by guest of honor Hussein Mansoor, Director of Research and Development at the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries. He noted that much investment in cassava production had gone into development of improved high-yielding disease-resistant varieties and less on cassava agronomy, and thus the persistent high yield gap.

“With the need to intensify cassava production in areas where population densities have reduced access to land for agriculture and with cassava roots becoming an important raw material for the processing sector, the yield gap needs to be reduced. This requires investments in inputs and labor and access to fresh root markets or value-adding processing markets to ensure that farming households can generate the income required,” he said.


ACAI project participants during the launch.
ACAI project participants during the launch.

Lawrence Kent from the Gates Foundation said the Foundation was keen on the project due to the link between improved varieties and good agronomic practices.

“By developing improved varieties, we are only addressing half the problem. Low yields in farmers’ fields are a result of poor varieties and poor agronomic practices,” Kent said to the meeting participants via Skype. He also commended the project for its clear link between
research and uptake of the findings and between research and extension and demand-driven approach by working with partners in the cassava value chain to addressing their priorities and concerns.

ACAI seeks to improve cassava yields, cassava root quality, cassava supply to the processing sector, and fertilizer sales, and have over 100,000 households in Nigeria and Tanzania benefiting and creating a value of over US$27 million in the next five years. This value will result from increased yield of cassava and associated crops (due to intercropping), higher starch content, more continuous supply of the roots, and use of fertilizers among others. The project will also be implemented in Uganda and Ghana.

Partners in Tanzania include Cassava Adding Value for Africa (C:AVA), Farm Concern International (FCI), Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), and Minjingu Mines & Fertilizers Ltd.

Biostatistics and SAS refresher courses organized at IITA-Kinshasa

Two statistics courses were organized for IITA staff and partners in DR Congo on 25 January to 5 February. The first―a refresher course on Statistical Analysis System (SAS), was organized for IITA-Kinshasa researchers. The training provided detailed hands-on exposure to the basic procedures for appropriate data analysis as well as the provision of SAS software for participants. The second course on Biostatistics was intended for grantees of the Projet de Recherche pour l’Innovation Agricole (PRIA). PRIA seeks to revitalize development-oriented agricultural research in the country.

Participants of the biostatistics course and IITA staff in Kinshasa after the opening ceremony with the DR Congo Minister of Agriculture Representative.
Participants of the biostatistics course and IITA staff in Kinshasa after the opening ceremony
with the DR Congo Minister of Agriculture Representative.

About 18 grantees from the universities, Institut National pour l’Etude et la Recherche Agronomiques (INERA), and NGOs participated in the training courses which facilitated by IITA’s Biometricians Sam Ofodile and Sam Korie. In addition to the statistical courses, Ovegho Okome, IITA Project Administrative Officer, discussed the Institute’s financial reporting and accounting procedures.

The PRIA project is entirely funded by the DR Congo Government and managed by IITA, and covered by a memo of understanding signed in Kinshasa in June 2013. Since it started in December 2013, PRIA continues to provide competitive research grants to Congolese researchers
working with INERA, local universities, NGOs, and private organizations to
carry out innovative agricultural research in the food, livestock, and fish farming sectors. To date, about 44 of such research grants have been attributed to DR Congo researchers. These small grants were selected out of 300 applications.

IITA long-term trials validate ISFM benefits

IITA researchers working together with other scientists have shown that food security, crop yields and farmers’ livelihoods; the resilience of cropping systems to climatic change impacts; and mitigation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions derived from fertilizer or soil are significantly enhanced when Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) is practiced during production.

To achieve these, stakeholders in agriculture advocate a shift in agro-practices to production systems that are “climate smart”. This means systems that are more productive, use inputs more efficiently, and are more responsive to local climate and socioeconomic conditions while also contributing to address climate change.

The ISFM system – a set of agro-practices adapted to local conditions for increasing production and the efficiency of inputs – is one such system which decades of research show as being able to satisfy the goals of Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA).

ISFM promotes the systematic combination of both organic and inorganic inputs, improved germplasm, and sound agronomic practices as the best fit technology to successfully increase agricultural production and achieve food and nutrition security especially for poor smallholder farmers in developing countries relying on rainfed agriculture for their livelihoods. The technology is anchored on the germplasm of crops and use of inorganic fertilizer; organic resource management; and other limitations to productivity such as soil acidity, erosion, pests and diseases. These pillars make ISFM invaluable to CSA.

IITA researchers carried out a 20-year trial in Nigeria to show the benefits of ISFM on all dimensions of CSA. In the study, reduced rates of nitrogen phosphorus potassium (NPK) fertilizer application to maize crops and input of nitrogen-rich organic residues were employed while rotating maize and cowpea.

The technology produced a much higher and better quality harvest for cultivated maize and cowpea. The study also demonstrates a cost-effective and environmentally friendlier alternative to boosting food security and generating wealth compared to lone use of synthetic chemical pesticides.

ISFM practices of combining fertilizers with organic input showed an average maize productivity of 2.8 t/ha versus 1.7 t/ha when only fertilizers were used. Cowpea yielded about 1.2 t/ha under the ISFM system compared to 0.7 t/ha when no organic inputs were made.

The study further showed that the variability in maize grain yields between growing seasons was reduced by 63% in the ISFM system whereas soil carbon content was almost double under non-ISFM farming practices, demonstrating that ISFM practice does indeed mitigate GHG emissions.

Details of the study are contained in a report by the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture (GACSA) titled “Integrated Soil Fertility Management: Contributions of framework and practices to climate-smart agriculture.” The report, authored by D Roobroeck, P Van Asten, B Jama, R Harawa, and B Vanlauwe, elaborates on and serves as a guidebook for the practice of ISFM as well as identifies and proposes solutions to adoption barriers.

Even though the benefits of ISFM practice are demonstrably clear, adoption and maintenance rates remain very low across sub-Saharan Africa. The report identifies contributory factors that include high transaction costs, inadequate access to input/output and credit markets, land size and property rights issues, poor information dissemination systems, non-existent agricultural extension services, and a paucity of government and donor-funded projects.

The solution to these challenges may, however, lie in replicating across sub-Saharan Africa, an experiment facilitated by the Clinton Development Initiative (CDI) and Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to upscale ISFM in Malawi.

The program which combines maize-soybean rotations with strategic use of NPK fertilizers employs a model that brings different participants in the value chain together, facilitating close relationships and enabling better access by smallholder farmers to information, input/output, and credit markets.

As a result, average maize and soybean yields have increased by 140% and 86%, respectively, in three years while women make up about 50% of the 18,000 smallholder farmers to have adopted the ISFM practice. Another 30,000 farmers, half of which are women, are currently being trained on ISFM practices and a total of 9,906 hectares of land have been converted to the ISFM system.

This demonstrates that accelerating adoption rates of ISFM across the region will ensure that smallholder farmers can secure their food and nutrition needs and enhance their incomes in the face of climate change.

Ugandan Agric Ministry pioneer development of climate change mainstreaming guidelines

Group photograph of participants at the workshop.
Group photograph of participants at the workshop.

The Ugandan Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), with support from IITA-led Policy Action for Climate Change Adaptation (PACCA) project, and USAID Feed the Future Enabling Environment for Agriculture (USAID-EEA), organized a national level stakeholder workshop to validate the recently developed Climate Change Mainstreaming Guidelines for the Agricultural Sector in Uganda.

The validation workshop was held on 29 January in Mukono. Stakeholders from government ministries, departments, and agencies, farmer organizations, civil society organizations, private sector, development partners, research institutions, academia, and the media attended.

“MAAIF recognizes that climate change impacts can only be tackled through collaborative efforts,” Sunday Mutabaazi, chairperson of the MAAIF climate change task force, said in his opening remarks.

The guidelines are in line with the national ones developed by the National Planning Authority (NPA) in partnership with Climate Change Department (CCD) in 2014 to harmonize sector specific guidelines and ensure that they are aligned to national development plans.

The draft agriculture sector guidelines were developed through a consultative bottoms-up approach led by MAAIF that took nearly a year starting in November 2014.

During the validation workshop, the participants, grouped by subsectors (crop, livestock, and fisheries), scrutinized the document and gave their inputs.

Their feedback will be consolidated and integrated into the draft guidelines to be approved by the ministry, and rolled out for implementation by different climate change participants.

“Once validated, stakeholders at all levels should ensure that the guidelines are implemented,” said Chebet Maikut, commissioner, Climate Change Department, Ministry of Water and Environment. He appealed to the districts that had not integrated climate change into their District Development Plans to urgently do so.

The guidelines will facilitate mainstreaming of climate change issues into the agriculture sector policies, plans, programs, and activities by providing basic and flexible guidance on entry points. They also include basic steps and tools on how to mainstream climate change adaptation into agriculture policy processes.

PACCA is a CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) flagship project (policies and institutions) implemented by IITA, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and Bioversity International.

Inqaba-IITA trains staff on phylogenetics

Inqaba biotec West Africa in collaboration with IITA organized an Introductory Phylogenetics Workshop on 24-29January, at IITA, Ibadan.

Training facilitator, Dr Jane Wright, talking to participants.
Training facilitator, Dr Jane Wright, talking to

The workshop was attended by 15 laboratory scientists from various laboratories in Nigeria. It aimed to present the basic principles and techniques for understanding the evolution of genes and genomes. The steps required from checking a sequence to constructing a phylogenetic tree were also covered.

The workshop was facilitated by Jane Wright, an expert in Phylogenetics from Inqaba Biotec with a PhD in Biology from the University of York, and a teacher of Phylogenetics for over 15 years.

During the workshop, the participants learned about Base calling, Distance analysis using PHYLIP and MEGA 6, Sequence Alignment and Primer design. They also toured the IITA Bioscience Center where Yemi Fasanmade, Lab Manager, enlightened them on the various activities and research carried out in the labs.

At the end of the workshop, the participants said they were impressed with the course content and the organization of the workshop in general. They showed interest in having an advanced workshop as a follow-up in the future.

Inqaba biotec West Africa is a subsidiary of Inqaba Biotec, a genomics company with headquarters in South Africa. Its West African office is located at the Bioscience Center, IITA- Ibadan.

New partnership celebrates scientific innovations shaping global agriculture today

CGThe global agriculture coalition Farming First and the CGIAR have joined forces to highlight the powerful impact that investments in science and innovation can make on global development. A new interactive essay compiled by the partnership demonstrates how these investments can go beyond simply meeting food security needs, but contribute to broader interlinked goals such as natural resource management, improved nutrition, and resilient rural livelihoods.

“Scientific discoveries and innovations are helping farmers make breakthroughs every day,” comments Robert Hunter, Farming First co-Chair, “helping them feed their families, earn a better living, and look after the natural resources we all rely on. This collection of case studies illustrates how science and technology can help lift a farmer from poverty to prosperity”.

GCAccording to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 793 million people in the world are still undernourished. Despite reductions in poverty levels in recent years, World Bank research estimates that 100 million people could be pushed back into poverty due to climate change. Farming First and CGIAR intend for the interactive essay to demonstrate how effective investments in scientific research and innovation for agriculture can be used in meeting these challenges.

“Studies have demonstrated for decades that agricultural research is the most cost-effective investment that exists for development,” comments Frank Rijsberman, CEO of CGIAR. “Our planet is under unprecedented pressure to simultaneously ensure healthy diets for all, boost rural incomes and employment as well as protect vital natural resources. As we begin our path towards the Sustainable Development Goals, agricultural research for development must play a central role”.

The interactive essay explores, through photographs and videos, the scientific advances that are transforming rural lives all over the world today. The 28 case studies sourced from Farming First supporters and CGIAR Centers are organized into five themes: natural resource management, agricultural extension, improved inputs, resilience, and market access. They include:

  • Drones and satellite mapping systems that are tracking plant health and land use change.
  • Improved crop varieties that are more nutritious, resilient to disease, and able to survive under extreme weather conditions.
  • Innovative extension models that are delivering training via mobile, video, and radio to farmers in remote locations.
  • Faster, more efficient electronic systems that digitize tracking and payment information for small to mid-size agribusinesses.

The infographic is the latest in Farming First’s multi award-winning creative products in support of sustainable agriculture around the world.

IITA gets new training facilities for cassava processing in Tanzania

IITA’s efforts to promote the processing of cassava in Tanzania have received a major boost with the completion and handing over of newly constructed facilities for a training center on cassava processing on 27 January. Facilities included an equipment fabrication workshop, a cassava processing center, and offices.

SARD-SCThe construction of the buildings, which are on land donated by the Government of Tanzania to IITA in Kwembe, about 30 km from Dar es Salaam, was funded by the Support to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops in Africa (SARD-SC) project. This is a multinational, CGIAR-led project, funded by the African Development Bank and led by IITA.

The buildings are part of the project’s efforts to support the generation of agricultural technology and innovations through the construction of improved facilities that support efficient dissemination of postharvest cassava processing technologies to the farming communities.

On hand to receive the building was Edward Kanju, a senior Scientist at IITA-Tanzania on behalf of the IITA Director for the Eastern Africa hub, Victor Manyong.

(from left) Clare Ruwenza, Veronica Uzokwe, Edward Kanju, Claude Shikonyi, Zulfawu Yahaya, and Davis Mwekanyamale, at the handing-over event.
(from left) Clare Ruwenza, Veronica Uzokwe, Edward Kanju, Claude Shikonyi, Zulfawu Yahaya, and Davis Mwekanyamale, at the handing-over event.

Also present at the event was Veronica Uzokwe, the Country Coordinator of the IITA/SARD-SC project. Uzokwe emphasized that the center would go a long way in supporting IITA’s efforts to disseminate cassava postharvest innovation/technologies and value addition. This in turn is expected to contribute to improving food security to overcome hunger, improve livelihoods, and lift the country out of poverty.

She said the training center will bring together stakeholders from across the country for theoretical and practical lessons on postharvest cassava processing technologies.

“The project is complete and ready to operate; we hope that IITA will get more funds for operational efficiency,” said Uzokwe.

According to Bakari Abdallah, IITA/SARD-SC Research Assistant, the project has purchased improved cassava postharvest processing machines that will be installed this month.

“We have already purchased equipment such as a hammer mill, fryers, hydraulic presses, and peeling and chipping machines ready for installation in the cassava processing building. The machines will speed up the processing of high quality cassava products compared to local technologies.” said Bakari.

Others present at the handing over ceremony were Zulfawu Yahaya, IITA/SARD-SC Procurement Specialist; Clare Ruhweza, IITA Regional Maintenance Officer; Gilbert Kimboka, Assistant Maintenance Officer at IITA-Tanzania; Davis Mwakanyamale, SARD-SC Country Supervisor; and Onugbolu Onyekachi, a consultant Quantity Surveyor from IITA-Ibadan, Nigeria.

IITA builds capacity of staff and partners in Tanzania on aflatoxin control

IITA recently trained its staff, partners, and farmers in Kongwa District, Tanzania, on how to control aflatoxin using Aflasafe, an effective and safe biological control product developed by researchers at the Institute and partners.

IITA’s Greg Ogbe demonstrates how to apply aflasafe on groundnuts.
IITA’s Greg Ogbe demonstrates how to apply aflasafe on groundnuts.

Kongwa is a major maize and groundnut growing and consuming area. Both are important basic ingredients in complementary weaning foods in Tanzania.

Consumption of mycotoxin-contaminated complementary foods by children under five years has been implicated in the high rates of child growth impairment in Tanzania, manifested as stunting (42%), being underweight (16%), and wasting (5%).

Before the training, the IITA team paid a courtesy call to Jackson Shija, the District Agricultural, Irrigation and Cooperatives Officer (DAICO), who appreciated the Institute’s efforts in supporting them to tackle the aflatoxin problem in the District.

“We are very concerned about aflatoxins because maize and groundnut are staple crops in the area. Our district has the highest stunting rates in the country; 56% compared to 42%, the national average,” he said.

“Although we have been encouraging farmers to grow small grains, especially bulrush millet and sorghum, they are not willing to grow these crops, preferring instead to grow maize and groundnut. Since we have failed to persuade farmers to grow these other crops, efforts to manage aflatoxin are very welcome. Let us find a solution to make the product safe, as we know that farmers will always grow and consume maize and groundnut.”

Stakeholders at Kongwa prepare to be shown how to apply the aflasafe in the field.
Stakeholders at Kongwa prepare to be shown how to apply the aflasafe in the field.

In addition to creating awareness on aflatoxin and its health threats, the training, held 21―22 January, focused on how to conduct efficacy trials for Aflasafe. Kongwa is one of the target districts where field trials to develop an effective aflatoxin biological control product for Tanzania are being conducted.

According to George Mahuku, IITA Plant Pathologist who led the training, the participants were trained on how to set up trials, how to handle the Aflasafe product, how to apply it on maize and groundnut, what to do or not do after the application, and the types of data to collect.

For example, he said, the farmers or researchers should keep off the fields, and suspend weeding or any farm activities for two to four weeks after application to avoid burying the product in the soil and affecting its efficacy.

A total of 17 participants were trained. They included extension agents from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Kongwa District Council, the National Biological Control Program (NCPB), and farmers on whose fields validation trials were being conducted. Also conducting the training was Greg Ogbe from IITA-Nigeria, who shared his experiences from similar activities conducted in Nigeria, Ghana, and Senegal.