Bad news for Fusarium wilt: “Breeding Better Bananas” means business

Hi pests and diseases, it’s your nasty cousin Fusarium. I’ve got an update for you from banana fields and scientists’ labs in Arusha, Tanzania. Its rather mixed news, I am afraid, as the humans seem to be making some progress.

First, some good news. Coffee prices and profits are down so many farmers are interested to switch to bananas. That could mean a bigger area to attack. And once I can get into the soil in their fields, I can stay for at least sixty years. Isn’t it great?

Fortunately, most farmers still aren’t aware that I am spreading in their irrigation water and even on their pruning tools. And climate change seems to be giving me a helping hand, because farmers are irrigating more since it has been so dry. I’m on the move, and you don’t have to take my word for it. According to Akida Meya, of The Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology (NM-AIST). “Since last year Fusarium wilt is making a breakthrough in higher lands on Mount Meru above 1,200 meters where it hadn’t gotten a foothold before.”

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“Big brothers” come back to IITA for commercialization

Reconnection and commercialization met on 1820 October when Dr Moctar Touré from Senegal, and Mr Birama Sidibé from Mali, long-time friends of IITA DG Nteranya Sanginga, visited Ibadan to initiate a partnershipsupport relationship with the Institute that would benefit many start-up businesses in Africa.

Picture of DG Sanginga welcoming his old friends.
DG Sanginga welcoming his old friends.

The duo were warmly received by DG Sanginga, who gleefully welcomed his old friend Touré, with whom he had interacted in the past around African agricultural research for development.

“I am very pleased to see you again

after a long time, and knowing that you want to partner with IITA as a private sector actor is delightful news. Your interest is clearly in line with IITA’s vision in terms of engaging the private sector and extending the products of IITA research to the end users,” said DG Sanginga.

Corroborating DG Sanginga’s stance, Mr Sidibé said IITA has helped many private sector organizations grow.

“There is only one door to knock on for opportunities, technical excellence, and high technology: IITA’s door. We are pleased with the leadership vision here and seek a strategic partnership, mentorship, and training from IITA,” he said.

Dr Touré expressed his aspiration for a winwin partnership with IITA. “It is important to note that we are looking for a winwin partnership with IITA, the sort of partnership that will open new doors and opportunities for many start-up businesses, similar to the one we are initiating back home,” he disclosed.

The duo went on a tour around IITA that showcased various interventions and technologies. They described the tour as impressive and fascinating, and applauded DG Sanginga for the rapid growth of the Institute.

Dr Touré is currently a member of the Senegalese National Academy of Sciences, the African Academy of Sciences, and the Global Science Academy. He was a former World Bank Executive and chair of the Africa Harvest’s Board of Directors. Mr Sidibé, on the other hand, is an executive of AGROBIOTECH (Bamako, Mali) and was a former Director of Shelter Africa, and former VP of the Islamic Development Bank. They are both engaged in setting up a commercial propagation tissue culture lab with the capacity to supply commercial farmers in the ECOWAS region with certified drought- and disease-resistant planting materials.

 

DG Sanginga: I didn’t want to be a farmer…

In the July edition of the monthly E-Magazine of the World Farmers’ Organization F@rmletter, DG Nteranya Sanginga revealed that crude agricultural practices made the sector unattractive to him as a young boy in the DR Congo.

Picture of DG Sanginga
DG Sanginga

“As a farm boy growing up in the DR Congo, I have experienced and seen how farming can be a backbreaking and labor-intensive chore for my family and the millions of African smallholder farmers. That’s why I chose not to be a farmer,” DG Sanginga recounted.

But thanks to modernization, DG Sanginga says he is fulfilled today working in the sector, assisting young men and women to create profitable business ventures from agriculture and helping to better the lives of millions of smallholder farmers around the world dependent on the sector to eke out a living.

He also said the rich climatic and arable land endowments of sub-Saharan Africa are resources that could be channeled to make agriculture more innovative, exciting, and profitable.

DG Sanginga emphasized the need for the youth to dominate the agricultural value chains, noting that for a sector that feeds the world and ensures food and nutrition security, the involvement of vibrant young men and women should be unquestioned.

He cited the IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA) as ambassadors of the sort of change that modern-day agricultural practices require and said that the IYA model is a testament that when empowered, young people can turn a seemingly unattractive venture into a goldmine.

DG Sanginga enjoined relevant stakeholders, policymakers, and communities to rise up to the challenge and to support, promote, and replicate the model.

He also prescribed that stakeholders should provide institutional support, training, access to finance, land, favorable policies, programs and infrastructures that would enable the youth to see farming as a business and also motivate them to take up agriculture on a commercial scale.

He concluded by advising that “there should be a determined effort to ensure that the younger generations tap into the potentials of agriculture. That is the only way we can save the agriculture sector, ensure food security, and increase agricultural productivity when our ageing farmers are gone.” Read the full feature here.

 

Changing fortunes of farmers and empowering women in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania through legumes

20160311_163804While it is the number one cash crop for most farmers in Tanzania, maize is getting a serious run for its money from legumes such as beans, groundnut, and soybean which are becoming commercial crops in the cool and hilly terrain of the Southern Highlands. In addition, legumes are also good for tackling malnutrition and soil infertility as they are a cheap source of protein and are able to fix nitrogen from the air into the soils.

This turn of events is being fueled firstly by many years of collaboration between farmers and Tanzanian and international research institutions,  a range of development partners, and the private sector that has seen the development and dissemination of improved varieties and good agronomic practices enabling farmers to increase their legume yield by up to four times.

These include the government funded Uyole Agricultural Research Institute with technical backstopping from international research organizations such as the ), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA),  International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-arid Tropics (ICRISAT)and Wageningen University; development NGOs such One Acre Fund and Farm Inputs Promotion Services (FIPS)  and support from the Tanzanian Government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

And secondly, a ready market within and in the neighboring countries of Zambia, DR Congo, Malawi, and as far down as South Africa.

On a recent visit to the region, we met a number of farmers whose fortunes have greatly changed and their livelihoods improved as a result of growing legumes.

Daudi Bukuku – from borrowing soap to a respectable bean expert

Daudi Bukuku, accompanied by his wife explaining on the benefits he has reaped from cultivating beans
Daudi Bukuku, accompanied by his wife explaining the benefits he has reaped from cultivating beans

Daudi Bukuku, a charming 38-year-old farmer has seen his life turnaround from at one time not being able to afford to buy soap for his family to being able to purchase and install a biogas plant at his home reducing the drudgery and time spent by his wife looking for firewood. All thanks to beans.

“Before starting this improved farming of beans, I used to harvest 200 kg of beans from an acre. Life was hard and I was struggling to even buy soap for my family. However, everything changed when I was invited for a training at ARI Uyole on improved farming methods for  beans and also received new, improved varieties to try,” Daudi says.

“I learned proper spacing, proper use of fertilizers, and how to harvest and store my crop. I applied everything I had learned and now my yield is up to 700 to 800 kg per acre. My life is so much better as you can see. I have even managed to buy livestock. I have cows, pigs, and chickens. I have also been able to install a biogas plant that converts the waste from my livestock into gas for cooking. I am no longer destroying the environment for firewood. And my wife now respects me as I have made her life easy. She is not struggling with cooking. In twenty minutes, all the food is ready,” he said.

Daudi’s farm acts as a demonstration site to transfer the technologies and knowledge he has gained from the researchers to the surrounding farmers who are inspired with what they see and by the changes he has made in his life. He has also been trained in the production of Quality Declared Seeds and therefore sells seeds of various local and improved varieties to surrounding farmers.

Empowering women and improving marriages

DSCN5561 (2)
Witness Sikayange, chair lady of Upendo women’s group shows the bean plants in one of their farms

Upendo women’s group in Mchewe village in Mbeya rural district has also seen beans change their lives and their marriages for the better.

According to the chair of the group, Witness Sikayange, the women came together in 2010 to find ways to work together to improve their lives and those of their families through farming.

“We realized we can earn more money from beans compared to maize as we can harvest up to three times a year compared to once a year for maize. We then approached researchers and government extension workers for training on improved farming methods and for improved varieties. And after that, we started commercial farming of beans.

“We are now living a very comfortable life. We all have improved houses and are taking our children to school. And our marriages are even better. Before we used to have a lot of quarrels with our husbands but since we started making our own money, they now respect us as we are not just sitting begging for everything,” Witness said.

The group is also growing Quality Declared Seeds (QDS) for the various varieties of bean released from Uyole Agricultural Research Institute to sell to surrounding farmers and processing pre-cooked beans for sale.

Spreading the success

Women selling an assortment of beans on the roadside in Mbeya, southern Tanzania
Women selling an assortment of beans on the roadside in Mbeya, southern Tanzania

There are a number of ongoing research initiatives to build on to these successes to  spread the benefits of legumes to more farmers: .

Building capacity of research institutes to develop new legume varieties:  Efforts to provide farmers with better varieties are also continuing through the Tropical Legumes III (TLIII) project funded by the Gates Foundation and  led by ICRISAT.

According to Emmanuel Monyo, the coordinator for this project, TLIII  is seeking to improve the breeding capacity of national agricultural research systems and of  three CG centers―CIAT, IITA, and ICRISAT to provide farmers with improved high yielding legume varieties  to improve the  production and productivity of the crops in Sub-Saharan Africa And Asia. Its target is to improve the livelihoods and nutritional status of smallholder farmers through increased legume production.

N2africa – adding  soybean to the mix:  The ‘Putting nitrogen fixation to work for smallholder farmers in Africa,’ project,  in short  N2Africa, led by Wageningen University in the Netherlands is promoting the production of soybean in the area and introducing  the use of seed innoculants and improved farming methods such as higher density planting and use of appropriate fertilizers both organic, inorganic and bio-fertilizers.

According to Fred Baijukya, an agronomist at IITA’s Eastern Africa hub  and N2Africa Country Coordinator for Tanzania, the project is currently conducting trials of new improved soybean varieties together with ARI-Uyole and lead farmers to identify the best-performing ones as well as have farmers preferred traits to recommend for release.

Freddy Baijukya, IITA Agronomist and N2Africa Country Coordinator explaining to the group on the long-term trials
Freddy Baijukya, IITA Agronomist and N2Africa Country Coordinator explaining to the group on the long-term trials

The project is also conducting agronomic trials looking into the best agronomic practices that will ensure the farmers get the highest returns including time of planting, spacing and use of fertilizers.

Dissemination of technologies: One challenge that faces research organizations is the wide-scale dissemination and scaling out of new technologies to reach many farmers. Two NGOs―One Acre Fund and Farm Inputs Promotion (FIPs)―are assisting in these efforts. FIPs is providing farmer with small packs of different inputs including seeds for improved varieties and fertilizers.  For testing and adoption of those they like and also providing advice on good agronomic practices. FIPS also links farmers to the agro-dealers and private sector companies to ensure supply of the inputs.

One Acre Fund on the other hand is providing loans to farmers to purchase seeds and other inputs such as fertilizers for their farms and training them on better farming practices.

The two development partners are now keen to work with the research teams to help in the dissemination of new legume varieties released from research institutes as well as inputs such as rhizobium and legume fertilizers.

Upendo Women Group holding small packets of inputs from FIPS to test on their farms and decide if they would like to usethem the next growin season.
Upendo Womens Group holding small packets of inputs from FIPS for testing on their farms

These successful cases show the clear link between research and development, says Jean Claude Rubyongo, a seed system specialist from CIAT and who is also one of the researchers who has been conducting research on bean in the country for many years parenting with ARI-Uyole.

If the successes achieved by Daudi and Upendo can be replicated throughout the region, then clearly the region will transform itself and make a big dent in the efforts to support the country to industrialize and reduce poverty and malnutrition.

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”.

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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.

DRC Prime Minister Matata Ponyo Mapon, visits IITA- Kinshasa on 14 July, part 2

In last week’s issue of the IITA Bulletin, we featured a story on the DRC Prime Minister’s visit to IITA-Kinshasa as part of the Agripreneurs exhibition called Young Congolese and Agribusiness.

Picture of DG Sanginga (left) welcoming the Prime Minister (right) to the event.
DG Sanginga (left) welcomes the Prime Minister (right) to the event.

During the visit, Mr Matata Ponyo Mapon thanked IITA Director General Nteranya Sanginga and cited the work of IITA in agricultural development in DR Congo and beyond, especially in research and youth development.

Picture of Mr Matata Ponyo reaffirming the DRC government’s unending support for IITA.
Mr Matata Ponyo reaffirms the DRC government’s unending support for IITA.

Mr Matata Ponyo also emphasized that research was fundamental for agricultural development and assured IITA of the commitment of the DRC President to make agriculture a key sector in the development of the country’s economy. He went further to reiterate that the Government would support and help extend the Youth in Agribusiness initiative across the whole country.

Picture of Mrs Charlotte Sanginga shaking hands with the honorable prime minister at the exhibition booth.
Mrs Charlotte Sanginga shakes hands with the honorable prime minister at the exhibition booth.
Picture of The IITA Youth Agripreneurs showcasing food products developed from various staple crops.
The IITA Youth Agripreneurs showcase food products developed from various staple crops.
Picture of The IITA Youth Agripreneurs with the prime minister (center), flanked by Dr and Mrs Sanginga.
The IITA Youth Agripreneurs with the prime minister (center), flanked by Dr and Mrs Sanginga.

DRC prime minister visits IITA-Kinshasa; strongly supports youth engagement in agriculture

Agriculture has been identified as a major sector which can help to increase growth in the economy of African countries,” said the Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Matata Ponyo Mapon, on 14 July, at an exhibition organized by the Government and IITA.

The exhibition Young Congolese and Agribusiness showcased various products derived from cassava and soybean at the Prime Minister’s garden in Kinshasa.

Speaking during the exhibition, Mr Matata Ponyo said the Government had identified the youth as “agents of change that would bring the necessary technologies and zeal to revolutionize the agricultural sector.”

He added that the government shared IITA’s vision of improving agriculture through research, science-driven agriculture, and youth involvement in the sector.

“The organization of this exhibition is a testimony to the engagement of the President, His Excellency Joseph Kabila, the Prime Minister, and other ministries to improve agriculture especially in the rural areas,” he said.

Impressed by the activities of IITA especially on youth involvement in agriculture, the Prime Minister commended IITA Director General Nteranya Sanginga, for IITA’s youth initiative and promised that the country would support the spread of the initiative.

Picture of The IITA Youth Agripreneurs showcasing food products developed from various staple crops.
The IITA Youth Agripreneurs showcase food products developed from various staple crops.

Dr Mahungu Nzola-Meso, IITA’s country representative, thanked the Prime Minister and members of the cabinet for the opportunity given to IITA to showcase agriculture from a new dimension. The IITA Youth Agripreneurs initiative is spreading across Africa and aims at reducing youth unemployment around the continent.

“Agriculture is the best sector to bring youth into business. IITA joined in the same view by initiating the Agripreneur model which is now well known on the continent. Young Agripreneurs are really committed to learn business using agriculture along the value chain from the seeds to the consumer,” he said.

He added that chapters of the youth group already existed in parts of DRC such as Bukavu, Kinshasa, and Kisangani. There are expectations that the model would be extended to other parts of the country.

The different groups of the IITA Youth Agripreneurs in DRC were joined by their counterparts from Nigeria for the exhibition.

The exhibition is an outcome of the visit to IITA Nigeria by two special advisers to the Prime Minister, Mr Gerome Masankisi Kamwanga and John Ulimwengu, in June this year to explore areas of partnership and investment with the Institute.