Celebrating IITA50 in Rwanda: How collaboration between CGIAR and scaling partners can make science work for farmers

Authors: Mariette McCampbell, Marc Schut and Emmanuel Njukwe

IITA Rwanda took the International Scientific Conference organized by University of Rwanda between 14-16 June 2017 as an opportunity to showcase its research for development in the country and to mark IITA’s 50th anniversary. Conference participants from all over the world got to see and hear about IITA’s work. Dr. Emmanuel Njukwe gave an oral presentation titled ‘Variation of banana yields in banana-bean production systems in Rwanda’, and chaired the session on Sustainable Crop Production and Soil Fertility Management. Another oral presentation with the title ‘Nutrient use efficiency in maize response to fertilizers in smallholder farms of Rwanda’ was given by Leon Nabuhungu from the IITA Bukavu station. In collaboration with different partners such as Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB), a poster with results of the integrated systems research in North-West Rwanda was presented. On top of that, IITA took a prominent place in the conference’s exhibition, showing materials from projects such as N2Africa, CIALCA and RTB in collaboration with its partners. The NGO Gardens for Health International was present to inform visitors about their work on household nutrition in Rwanda. Private sector partner Africa Food Supply Ltd. joined to share their experience with the cost-effective banana macropropagation technology that was developed by IITA and Bioversity International under CIALCA. The live banana materials in the exhibition booth, including a full demonstration of a propagation unit, attracted attention from conference participants.

Photo/ McCampbell Mariette: Snapshot of IITA’s booth on the conference exhibition where, among other things, banana macropropagation technology was demonstrated to participants at the Kigali Conference and Exhibition Centre, Kigali, Rwanda.

On Thursday, June 15, IITA hosted a field visit to the Kamonyi Agricultural Resource and Training Centre in the Southern region. Four buses with national and international conference participants left Kigali for an afternoon in the field. As a first stop the banana macropropagation and nurseries were visited.  Visitors were welcomed by Mr. Udahemuka Aimable, who is the mayor of Kamonyi District. In his short speech, the mayor highlighted the achievements for production of clean banana seeds, thanks to the support of IITA. With the opening of the resource and training centre up to 300.000 banana suckers can be produced each year.

Dr. Marc Schut then talked about IITA’s presence in Africa, some of the activities and achievements in Rwanda so far, and the celebration of IITA’s golden jubilee in 2017. Marc emphasized the importance of close collaboration between research and public and private sector scaling partners, so that science-based innovations – such as the production of clean planting materials through macropropagation – can make a difference for farmers. He also mentioned that the Rwanda station is looking ahead, developing future plans for innovative research in the region on topics such as nutrition and ICT for agriculture.

Photo/McCampbell Mariette: Visitors examining macropropagation units at the Kamonyi Agricultural Resource and Training Centre, Kamonyi, Rwanda

The final talk was reserved for IITA Rwanda’s country representative Dr. Emmanuel Njukwe, who highlighted the strong relationships in Kamonyi with partners such as Africa Foods Ltd. and Union des Jeunes pour le Développement Rurale (UJDR). IITA has been working on improving banana production in this area since 2012. Emphasis has been on tackling key challenges in the banana system, such as diseases, availability of planting material, and access to varieties. Asked about the role of women by one of the visitors, he noted that both male and female farmers are targeted with the interventions. With the presence of the resource and training centre today the site offers opportunities for youth too.

Photo/McCampbell Mariette: Women from UJDR managing banana seedlings at the Kamonyi Agricultural Resource and Training Center in Kamonyi, Rwanda.

Visitors were given the opportunity to walk around the field site and ask all kinds of questions about macropropagation technology and operation of the resource centre. After a short drive a second stop was made at the banana plantation in Kamonyi. Here visitors saw the result of the macropropagation: healthy banana plants of different varieties, including plantain.

Photo/McCampbell Mariette: Visitors observing and discussing various banana varieties on the plantation in Kamonyi, Rwanda

For IITA Rwanda this was an important and successful event that provided a platform for sharing our experiences, outputs, and impact in the region to an interested and enthusiastic audience. IITA Rwanda showcased the Institute’s many interesting projects and certainly made IITA’s presence felt, and emphasized that we are ready for another 50 years of exciting research and development work together with our partners.

 

Photo/McCapmpbell Mariette: Dr. Emmanuel Njukwe and Dr. Marc Schut posing together with Mr. Edward Habinshuti, a farmer in Kamonyi district who gave a testimony on how his family’s livelihood improved since he planted 1500 banana seedlings on his farm.