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.

IITA and Partners Launch Project to Control CSBD/CMD for Rwanda and Burundi

By Nsimire Mireille

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in partnership with Institute of Agricultural Science of Burundi (ISABU) and Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) have launched a new project titled ‘Fighting Cassava Brown Streak Disease and Cassava Mosaic Disease through the deployment of new resistant germplasm and clean seed in Rwanda and Burundi’.

The Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) and Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD) are a major threat to cassava production in both Burundi and the eastern part of the neighbouring DRC.  Of concern is the CBSD which was reported in the region in 2009 and is spreading rapidly.

The four-year project seeks to increase cassava productivity in Rwanda and Burundi through the development and deployment of CBSD/CMD resistant cassava varieties, as well as establishing a system to produce and disseminate high quality and virus-tested planting materials to farmers. The project is funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and led by IITA with the national cassava research programs at ISABU and RAB, from Burundi and Rwanda respectively as the major partners.

The launch workshop brought together stakeholders from the two countries to get to know each other, and to understand the project better and was held at IITA-Kalambo station in Bukavu from 15 – 18 May 2017. It was officiated by the regional hub director, Dr. Bernard Vanlauwe who was represented by the officer in charge of IITA- Kalambo station, Dr. Chris Okafor.

Speaking at the workshop, Silver Tumwegamire, the project leader, said the expected outcomes of the project in the two countries included a 50% increase in cassava productivity for 20,000 cassava farmers through the introduction of high yielding and disease-resistant varieties, and establishing a sustainable system for dissemination of certified early generation seed (pre-basic and basic) of the best varieties.

The project builds on the experiences and lessons from the just concluded New Cassava Varieties and Clean Seeds to combat CMD and CBSD project (5CP in short) implemented in five countries in Eastern and Southern Africa. It will make use of the new improved cassava varieties selected under the 5CP project that showed high levels of tolerance to the two viral diseases.

The meeting also brought participants from other IITA led projects including the 5CP and Action to Control Cassava Brown Streak Disease in the Democratic Republic of Congo (CBSD-DRC)] to share their experiences and lessons to allow the new project team to learn from them and incorporate the lessons in their project as well to identify areas of synergies. The CBSD-DRC is led by Dr. Nzola Mahungu who is also the country coordinator for DRC.

James Legg, IITA virologist shared experiences and lessons on the development of a pilot clean seeds’ system for cassava in Tanzania under 5CP.  He outlined the requirements and approaches of developing clean seed systems to produce virus-tested cassava pre-basic’ seed.

Regina Kapinga, Head of Advocacy and Resource Mobilization at IITA gave a presentation on the importance of ensuring the project was aligned and mainstreamed to the priorities of the two countries for greater efficiency, effectiveness and impact!

“We need to ensure our activities are relevant to the countries we work in. we also need to systematically track the progress we are making in contributing towards the countries’ economic growth through agriculture,” Kapinga said.

Mahungu, CBSD-RDC project leader shared the objectives of the nearly similar project he was leading in DRC.  This was to maintain sustainable cassava productivity through the development and promotion of appropriate cassava varieties, resistant to CBSD and other biotic constraints, and disseminate approaches for the integrated management of cassava diseases and pests to contribute to increased food availability, income generation and sustainable livelihoods. In addition, presented the one year work plan activities.

The workshop concluded with a visit to the virology Laboratory at IITA-Bukavu where  Clerisse Casinga, a researcher at IITA – Kalambo shared with the participants a CBSD study conducted in D.R. Congo with supervision of IITA’s James Legg and Rudolph Shirima, in 2016.

SILT Partners Draw New Roadmap

The SILT workshop participants from left; Monica Kansiime (CABI); Irene Mvena (CABI); Abigael Mchana (CABI); Renee Bullock (IITA); Paul Dontsop (IITA); Dannie Romney (CABI); Godlove Nderingo (FRI); Silvia Silvestri (CABI-GALA); Freddy Baijukya (IITA); Karen Hampson (FRI);

The Scaling-up Improved Legumes Technology (SILT) project partners held a workshop to conceive manuscripts in the content of SILT, to develop guidelines for selection of effective dissemination approaches of SILT and to design the SILT outcome evaluation.

The Seminar was held at the IITA Central African Hub offices at ICIPE campus Nairobi with the participation of Fredrick Baijukya, Paul Dontsop, Renee Bullock and Irene Mvena from IITA; James Watiti, Monica Kansiime, Silvia Silvestri from CABI; and Karen Hampson and Godlove Nderingo from Farm Radio International (FRI).

Speaking at the end of the seminar, IITA’s Fredrick Baijukya said the workshop was successful and they had achieved all the objectives on the agenda.

“We now have the outlines for the 4 manuscripts on how we want to write them and the same for the guidelines for selecting extension communication methods” says Baijukya.

The group developed the outcome evaluation questionnaire, the activity which is planned to take place in August this year. The team also came up with titles for the manuscripts and the guidelines for the selection of effective dissemination approaches that are slated to be submitted by March 2018.

SILT is a three-year project funded by IDRC to produce geographically-specific information campaigns, targeting small-scale farming families, delivered just ahead of the legume planting seasons. It is jointly implemented by CABI, AFAP, IITA, FRI and a number International and National organization for scaling agricultural technologies

Read more about SILT http://africasoilhealth.cabi.org/about-ashc/ashc/silt/

Accelerating scaling in the African Cassava Agronomy Initiative (ACAI)


Scaling readiness workshop group photo from left, Veronica Uzokwe, Guillaume Ezui, Murat Sartas, Marc Schut, Christine Kreye, Abdulai Jalloh, Rebeca Enesi, Pieter Pypers and Stefan Hauser.

The African Cassava Agronomy Initiative (ACAI) team met in Ibadan, Nigeria on 24 and 25 April 2017 to discuss approaches, tools and strategies that can support scaling in ACAI. The workshop brought together two teams, that together seek to support scaling in IITA.

The ACAI team aims to promote cassava agronomy at scale, while the Scaling Readiness team supporting research for development(R4D) projects in achieving their scaling objectives.

The workshop provided a forum for the Scaling Readiness team to improve the validity and applicability of their tools to better support R4D projects like ACAI in improving the effectiveness and efficiency of their scaling strategy. ACAI has been selected as one of the four projects that the Scaling Readiness team will collaborate with developing and calibrating the tools.

“Developing Scaling Readiness tools with ACAI is crucial for ensuring that the data and analysis have high validity in terms of informing scaling strategies. ACAI is committed to making their products and approaches work for farmers, governments and private sector, and their leadership is very supportive in developing and testing the tools” says Dr. Marc Schut who is co-leading the Scaling Readiness work. Mr. Murat Sartas, who has introduced the Scaling Readiness concept in the agricultural research for development domain, goes even further in mentioning that he expects that “eventually Scaling Readiness will be used to monitor and evaluate impact of research for development interventions at project, research program and institute level.”

According to Dr. Pieter Pypers, Senior Agronomist ACAI, the Scaling Readiness work will help ACAI to identify and overcome scaling challenges that had not been anticipated otherwise as well as expand the thinking about ACAI innovations and their use. Dr. Abdulai Jalloh, project leader, extols Scaling Readiness for agricultural innovation as a necessary and timely approach for ACAI that will offer insight in better ways of scaling ACAI innovations and drive the project towards impact.

Murat Sartas gives a presentation during the Scaling Readiness workshop

The Scaling Readiness concept has been spearheaded by Dr. Marc Schut, Prof. Cees Leeuwis and Murat Sartas who fulfill (joint) positions with IITA and Wageningen University. The Scaling Readiness work is supported through the CGIAR Research Program on Roots Tubers and Bananas (RTB), which seeks to accelerate the scaling of RTB innovations – such as those developed under the ACAI project – to improve livelihoods across the world.

More information about Scaling Readiness can be accessed:

Twitter: @ScalingReady

ResearchGate:  Enhancing Scaling Readiness of Root, Tubers and Banana (RTB) Innovations

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 improved cassava varieties reduce food insecurity in Eastern DR Congo

A recent assessment on IITA improved cassava varieties released in the Moba region of DR Congo has shown that the crop contributes significantly to food security for households in the region. The varieties were introduced in 2010 during the first phase of the USAID-funded Development Food Assistance Program (DFAP) implemented by IITA and Food for the Hungry International (FH).

Prior to the introduction of the improved varieties, Moba residents had battled food insecurity for more than four months every year. In addition to ensuring constant food on the table of Moba households, the new cassava varieties have also increased average root yield from a paltry 2 tons/hectare to about 20 tons/hectare since 2010.

A happy cassava farmer shows off his field planted to IITA improved varieties.
A happy cassava farmer shows off his field planted to IITA improved varieties.

Kande Matungulu, IITA scientist based in DR Congo, said the breakthrough was a result of novel agro-technologies developed by IITA. He also added that “IITA and FH efforts succeeded in reducing food insecurity in the former Moba region, now known as Tanganyika Province.”

Paul Dontsop, IITA Impact Economist based in DRC, said “During the first phase of DFAP, IITA and FH did a very good job both in North Katanga (Kalemie and Moba) and South Kivu (Walungu). More than 30,000 households were directly involved in project implementation. If we consider the fact that the average household size in those areas is about six, we are talking about 180, 000 people helped directly by the project.”

To further spread the gains from this breakthrough, proposal development for a second DFAP phase, built on the good results and the lessons learned from phase one is ongoing.

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.

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.

Biofortified cassava and bean consumption boosted; HarvestPlus Director visits DRC

On Thursday, 30 April, Dr Howarth Bouis, Director of HarvestPlus, visited Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The meeting brought together national and international partners working in the field of food security and nutrition to discuss the activities of HarvestPlus worldwide and in particular those executed in the DRC.

There were 40 participants in the meeting from the following institutions: the Prime Minister’s office; National Seed Service, (SENASEM), National Institute of Agronomic Studies and Research (INERA), the secretary of Rural Development, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Smart Development Works, IITA, World Food Program, UNICEF, Mercy Corps, Catholic Relief Service, Helen Keller Foundation, and the international and local press.

Dr Howarth Bouis (center) with the IITA team in Kinshasa.
Dr Howarth Bouis (center) with the IITA team in Kinshasa.

The meeting talked about the mission and activities of HarvestPlus in DRC, which is to contribute not only to food security but also in the fight against malnutrition by promoting biofortified crops rich in vitamin A, iron, and zinc. During the meeting HarvestPlus emphasized the importance of capacity building for national services such as SENASEM, INERA, and other stakeholders, including local structures for the ownership and sustainability of activities for improving the livelihood of the Congolese people living in rural areas.

Prior to this meeting, Dr Bouis, accompanied by Dr Antoine Lubobo and Ir. Sylvain Bidiaka, the Country Managers of HarvestPlus-DRC, was received at the Prime Minister’s office, USAID, and the Canadian and Belgian cooperative projects in DRC to discuss the program and its future prospects.

Dr Howarth Bouis presents Harvest plus to the national and international press.
Dr Howarth Bouis presents Harvest plus to the national and international press.

In DRC, HarvestPlus is currently concentrating on cassava rich in vitamin A and beans rich in iron and zinc. The challenge is to improve the habits and mind set of Congolese citizens to consume not only the right quantity but also the right quality of food, especially with its food diversification strategy. These biofortified varieties of cassava and beans are registered in the national catalog published by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock. They are being spread among the beneficiaries in partnership with local organizations.

Biofortification is an integrated and multi-sector strategy for improving nutrition and well-being. It is a conventional method for improving plants without genetic manipulation to increase the micronutrient content in agricultural crops.

HarvestPlus is also a member of CGIAR) and is coordinated by the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the International Research Institute for Food Policy (IFPRI). In DRC, HarvestPlus activities carried out under cassava and maize are conducted in partnership with IITA, INERA, and local universities.

IITA’s business model for cassava in Cameroon presented as case study at the Burundi Economic and Social Development Forum

Dr Emmanuel Njukwe, Country Representative, IITA Burundi, was a guest speaker at the Burundi Economic and Social Development Forum held at the Hotel Club du Lac Tanganyika, Bujumbura, on 23 April. The Forum was organized by Burundi’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was chaired by Burundi’s First Vice President.

At the event which was attended by European Ambassadors, donor organizations, and NGOs, Dr Njukwe presented on IITA’s Business Model for Cassava, made a case for a reform in Africa’s cassava processing, and projected the efforts of IITA in this regard.

Dr Njukwe highlighted the multiple uses of the crop, noting that cassava remains important in sub-Saharan Africa for food security and income generation and also serves as a major food crop for many in Burundi.

“Cassava has great potentials as a source of starch and as feed for livestock. It is a high-yielding crop that is tolerant of poor soils and produces more under good management. Its production can, however, be hampered as it is bulky, highly susceptible to pests and diseases, and has a short shelf life that requires immediate processing after harvest,” said Dr Njukwe.

He noted that IITA’s business model for cassava was already bridging the gap between urban and rural processors and helping farmers and processors in Cameroon to reach international markets in Gabon and Congo-Brazzaville and other domestic markets as well.

“The main objective of the business model is to assess the viability of centralizing factories for processing high quality cassava flour (HQCF) in the urban centers while primary processing of dried cassava chips is decentralized and sourced at village levels in the rural areas.”

He added, “This business model aims at reducing postharvest losses and creating jobs for the youth and women in rural areas. To achieve success, a holistic and comprehensive approach in R4D is necessary that considers and addresses production, processing, and marketing challenges simultaneously and involves various stakeholders, such as farmers, development partners, policymakers, the private sector, and researchers.”

Explaining the process further, he noted that various activities are undertaken to build capacity of the end-users such as training on crop management, machine use, product development, and fabrication for the private sector. Top policymakers are involved in the process during the release of IITA cassava varieties and the events to promote the use of cassava flour in bakery products.

The Government of Burundi is now partnering with IITA to reproduce these benefits for its citizens. As a symbol of commitment IITA has been asked to develop a similar business model for banana and to sign a four-year memorandum of understanding with Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO), Burundi (2015 to 2018) for the implementation of both business models (cassava and banana) with support from the Netherlands Government.

Forum panelists including IITA’s Dr Emmanuel Njukwe on the far left.
Forum panelists including IITA’s Dr Emmanuel Njukwe on the far left.