“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.

 

DG Sanginga lauds IITA-Kano staff during visit

DG Nteranya Sanginga paid a courtesy visit to IITA Kano station on 27 July to monitor ongoing projects and research activities. During his welcome meeting, the DG congratulated staff members for their hard work and efforts in making IITA what it is today. He stressed that his priority is staff wellbeing but emphasized that duties should be handled diligently. He spoke about his game-changing strategies and his four major initiatives, which are the Business Incubation Platform, working with the African Development Bank, the IITA Youth Agripreneurs, and R4D. He also encouraged IITA Kano to have an identity. In his words he said “the world should know what Kano station stands for”.

Picture of DG Nteranya Sanginga (left) is shown the recent research developments within IITA-Kano campus
DG Nteranya Sanginga (left) is shown the recent research developments within IITA-Kano campus.

The DG was taken around the station to see improvements, developments, and some of the research carried out within the campus. He was taken to the new building and offices, then to an ongoing research on the effect of shade on cowpea and backcrosses of some selected varieties of cowpea.

DG Sanginga was also accompanied to Minjibir Local Government Area of the state to see some more research being undertaken by scientists. He commended every effort towards research which is targeted for development and proffered advice on some of the plots. On the Agripreneurs tomato fields, he encouraged the use of a greenhouse to check and regulate disease/pest infestations while he requested a business plan for the Livestock farm.

Sanginga to stay on as DG until 2021, IITA BoT confirms

Picture of DG Sanginga.
DG Sanginga.

Through an email circulated to all IITA staff by Bruce Coulman, Chair of the IITA Board of Trustees (BoT), on 28 July, the IITA BoT has officially confirmed the acceptance of Nteranya Sanginga of its offer for an additional five years at the helm of the Institute.

In his communication, the BoT Chair said, “on behalf of the Board of Trustees of IITA, I am pleased to announce that Nteranya Sanginga has accepted our offer of an additional five-year term as Director General, beginning 1 November 2016.”

“IITA has undergone a period of unprecedented growth in its science capacity under Sanginga’s first five years of leadership. The Board is looking forward to working with the DG on the many new initiatives under way that will strengthen IITA’s position as the leading agricultural research institute to address the problems of hunger and poverty in Africa.”

The whole IITA community joins the BoT in wishing DG Sanginga another fruitful term as head of IITA.

What would ensure the success of job creation in agribusiness in Africa?

Last 23 May, I was invited as one of the speakers at the panel discussion on ‘Jobs for women and young people’ which was co-hosted by INCLUDE at the Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank (AfDB) in Lusaka, Zambia. The panel was composed of high-powered women in the African research and development arena that includes Ms Yana Watson Kakar (Global Managing Parner, Dalberg), Ms Ada Osakwe (CEO, Agrolay Ventures), Ms Jacqueline Novogratz (CEO, Acumen), and Dr Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg (Director General, Africa Women in Agriculture and Research and Development, AWARD). I spoke on how the boundless opportunities in agricultural value chains and the existence of untapped resources, such as the youth, can provide the much needed impetus to drive the next wave of development in Africa. I also stressed the importance of having an enabling environment that will ensure that agriculture creates the business opportunities and decent employment along the various value chains for the millions of unemployed youth in Africa.

Picture of IITA Youth Agripreneurs using technology to enhance their work in the field.
IITA Youth Agripreneurs using technology to enhance their work in the field.

What is needed at this stage is to change the mindset of young men and women towards agriculture and make it a more attractive profession. For many young people in Africa, agriculture represents an unprofitable sector that requires a lot of hard, back-breaking work. Agriculture needs the energy and skills of the youth to add value to the sector and turn it into a vibrant, successful, and fully commercial enterprise. Our IITA Youth Agripreneurs, for example, have shown how a change in perception towards agriculture could make a graduate of history the best maize grower in northern Nigeria, and another graduate of communication and media studies one of the most lucrative catfish farmers in Ibadan, Nigeria. Matched with opportunity, I believe that this mindset change will help transform agriculture and result in productivity growth and job creation. Capacity development in agricultural techniques and business enterprise is another requirement for successful job creation in agribusiness. Training and skills development will ensure the integration of young women and men in agriculture, who could be trained on modern farming, agricultural-based entrepreneurship, and marketing. Through ENABLE Youth, the new program supported by the African Development Bank, incubation centers will be created for youths to learn and exchange practical ideas and will help nurture youth-led start-ups. Using the youth-to-youth approach in experiential learning will help ensure participation during the incubation period.

Picture of IITA Youth Agripreneurs at soybean seeds harvest point at Mokwa, Niger State
IITA Youth Agripreneurs in soybean seed harvest point at Mokwa, Niger State

 Also, networking among the youths is needed to establish a network for knowledge management. Under the ENABLE-Nigeria Program, this network will be formalized and expanded, and will focus upon mechanisms used by youth, such as internet sites and social media, to rapidly exchange and adapt needed information resources.  Institutional and financial support from both the private and public sectors will also help maximize opportunities for young people, strengthen their capacities, and facilitate their access to productive resources needed to drive broad-based growth to enhance agricultural productivity. Support can be in the form of loans, grants, mentoring; advocacy through awareness creation; and an enabling policy environment for the agribusiness enterprise to thrive. Technical backstopping, monitoring, and evaluation to keep track of the challenges, progress, and successes made during the incubation will help provide insights into the challenges of running agribusiness enterprises.

Picture of IITA Youth Agripreneurs with plantain.
IITA Youth Agripreneurs with produce plantain planting materials in the greenhouse.

I enjoin all stakeholders – governments, international and national organizations, the private sector, civil society, social groups, and parents – to help ensure the success of job creation in agribusiness through our youths.

DG Sanginga visits new Southern Africa Hub Campus

On 24 May, IITA Director General Nteranya Sanginga was at the new Southern Africa Research and Administration Hub (SARAH) campus at Kabangwe, Lusaka Province, Zambia, touring the facility and interacting with staff based there. The visit to the campus coincided with the attendance of the DG to the 2016 African Development Bank (AfDB) annual conference held in Lusaka on 23-27 May, during which he also delivered a presentation about the IITA-led TAAT program and the African youth-in-agriculture initiative.

Picture of David Chikoye (right) giving DG Sanginga a tour of IITA SARAH’s main research and administration block
David Chikoye (right) giving DG Sanginga a tour of IITA SARAH’s main research and administration block

The DG’s visit came on the heels of similar visits by the DDG for Research-for-Development, Ylva Hillbur, the previous week and by the DDG for Corporate Services, Kwame Akuffo-Akoto, two weeks ago.

The DG was welcomed to SARAH by David Chikoye, IITA Director for Southern Africa. Along with other scientists and staff, Chikoye showed DG Sanginga around the campus, briefing him about the various on-campus research and administration facilities. The DG also met some members of the Zambia IITA Youth Agripreneurs, who were on site for a training activity.

Picture of The DG greeting some IITA-Zambia staff
The DG greeting some IITA-Zambia staff

“Congratulations on your new ‘home’,” DG Sanginga told staff. “This new facility is a testament to our commitment to our

R4D work in this country and in this region. Basically, we are saying that IITA is here to stay for the long term,” added the DG.

“I remember when I first visited Zambia as IITA DG and donors were asking me where our research facilities were as they were looking for proof that we are not some fly-by-night entity. I promised them that we will be investing and building our facilities here. Although it took some time, that promise is now a reality,” DG Sanginga recounted.

“As the first step [of building this campus] has been taken, we now need to look forward to increasing and improving the facilities and services that we offer,” Sanginga added. He enumerated, among other things, the addition of laboratories, a youth training center, and Business Incubation Platform (BIP) units as priority plans for SARAH.

“I have also received inquiries from other CGIAR centers operating in Zambia about the possibility of having their offices hosted here [at SARAH],” DG Sanginga revealed. “I am confident that this will happen, just like in Ibadan, but we do have to build this campus up first to its full potential as a state-of-the-art agricultural research campus as contained in the SARAH Master Plan. We will achieve this,” he assured everyone.

At the meeting with IITA-Zambia staff, the DG also hinted at plans for his second term as IITA chief if the Board of Trustees approves.

“When I first started as IITA DG, the Institute’s budget was about US$40+ million. Today, it is almost triple that amount. We have also almost doubled the number of our scientists and support staff. These are despite the numerous budget cuts from the CGIAR and shifting donor priorities, which normally would have resulted in the reverse.”

“If I continue on as DG, I would have to raise the bar even higher―doubling IITA funding and staffing from what we already have today, and continuing to improve and add more infrastructure across the regions to support our R4D work in Africa,” he stressed.

“To this end, I ask for your cooperation and help in making sure that we, as an institute, continue with our successes,” he concluded.

Structural reforms underline IITA’s commitment to excellence

The Institute has announced a new organizational structure aimed at addressing longstanding operational deficiencies and providing a broader range of support within IITA and across projects.

The changes were announced by Director General Nteranya Sanginga as part of several decisions reached at the recently concluded meeting of the Board of Trustees (BOT) in Kalambo, DR Congo on 11-14 May.

Picture of DG Sanginga
DG Sanginga

The BOT approved a revised budget of US$ 143 million up from US$ 138 million and reaffirmed that instead of the IITA annual R4D week, the focal point this year will be on Partnerships for Delivery (P4D) with a strong emphasis on the massive opportunities and accomplishments of the Business Incubation Platform (BIP) and youth programs. The Institute will also press on with ongoing preparations for marking its 50th anniversary.

Also approved was the Institute’s Code of Conduct which provides guidelines to staff and all associates on standards of professional conduct and ethical choices to be made in the performance of duties and in the course of their relationship with IITA.

According to DG Sanginga, the CGIAR is transitioning and the modality for instituting a new system of government within the CG is now being set.

“Reports from Bruce Coulman, BOT Chair, on the CGIAR meeting in Rome show that the CGIAR is transitioning. There is a decision by donors and centers to establish a two tier system of governance; the Systems Council -consisting mainly of donors, and a System Management Board- consisting mostly of centers with a Systems Management Office run by an Executive Director responsible to the System Management Board for executing his/her functions. Under these new arrangements there will be only one CGIAR office to be located in Montpellier and considerably more interaction between the different entities of the system. All centers have been asked to nominate candidates for the System Management Board and IITA will follow with a nomination.”

The organizational reforms are a reflection of changes in the size, scope, and strategic thrust of the Institute and will help streamline decision making, foster greater integration and synergy across projects, strengthen relationships with partner organizations, and create a nimble and dynamic Institute better able to deliver its mandate.

As part of the restructuring, Hubs will be afforded a greater level of autonomy becoming in essence, self-governing and self-accounting entities with Directors having full responsibility for staffing decisions. This would give them the flexibility required to effectively carry out their functions.

To ensure a greater alignment with priorities and objectives of partner organizations to achieve shared goals, a Director for Systems and Site Integration will be appointed with the responsibility of facilitating collaboration with partners and ensuring that all IITA projects share a common thread that enables them to function as a coordinated whole.

Further changes include the merger of the Project Development Office and Project Administration Office into a unit within the Research Support Directorate. The Directorate will have oversight functions over a number of units and will work to enhance the visibility of the Institute, provide institutional support through data and information management as well as ensure improved project administration, monitoring and evaluation. Furthermore, the Institute will also recruit two new Financial Controllers to oversee operations in the Finance Directorate. This would enable the Finance Director to focus on strategy and long-term financial planning and work on establishing a self-regulating independent financial framework for the Hubs and Stations.

The Institute has placed renewed emphasis on strengthening relationships with donor organizations and agencies to enable improved delivery of agricultural technological solutions with market potential. To this end, the Partnerships and Capacity Development Directorate will be renamed Partnerships for Delivery (P4D) to better reflect this evolution in strategy. The Directorate will house the entrepreneurial and capacity development units of the Institute such as the Business Incubation Platform (BIP), Youth in Agribusiness, Capacity Development, Delivery and Development, and the newly instituted Mechanization initiative aimed at managing IITA’s mechanization programs and increasing the level of mechanization in agricultural operations in Africa.

In addition, a Clearinghouse will be established primarily for coordination of the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) and ENABLE youth programs of the African Development Bank as well as other World Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) development programs involving broad partnerships and spanning a large number of countries.

The Clearinghouse will be led by a DDG and will be headed by Kwame Akuffo-Akoto who leaves his position as Deputy Director General Corporate Services (DDG CS). The newly vacant DDG CS position will be advertised in due course and together with the Head of the Clearinghouse will be tasked with overseeing the proposed reforms.

These structural reforms will be implemented in a phased manner from June 2016 and is expected to cost around US$0.5 million.

IITA DG presents to Senate and House Committees on Agriculture, Nigeria

In an historic milestone, Director General Nteranya Sanginga on 9 March, made a presentation before the joint sitting of the Senate Committee and House of  Representatives  Committee  on Agriculture, House of Assembly, Abuja. For the first time in its almost 50 years of existence, IITA was invited by the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development to speak about IITA and its work. The DG’s presentation was titled “Repositioning IITA for impact in Nigeria.” The purpose of the visit was to interact with the lawmakers for better collaboration between the Institute and the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Picture of DG Nteranya Sanginga visits the joint Senate and House Committees on Agriculture in the National Assembly, Abuja.
DG Nteranya Sanginga visits the joint Senate and House Committees on Agriculture in
the National Assembly, Abuja.

Senator Abdullahi Adamu, Chair, Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, in his remarks, said “This government can only succeed if research is there. Research is fundamental to our success… IITA is all about research.” Sen Adamu was reacting to the DG’s presentation, which made a case for agriculture as a strategic driver of development in Nigeria.

In his concluding statement, Sen Adamu raised a wake-up call: “We must go back to agriculture! IITA is an institute that can greatly impact our efforts to improve the agricultural sector…” The senator had visited IITA for the first time in 2012 during a workshop organized with IITA Goodwill Ambassador, former President Olasegun Obasanjo.

The IITA contingent consisted of DG Sanginga,  Deputy  Director  General Kenton Dashiell, Alfred Dixon (Partnerships Coordination Office), Gbassey Tarawali (Outreach Coordinator, Abuja Station), Toyin Oke (RMPEL), Ayo Omopaola (IT  Officer,  Abuja),  Bode  Olaoluwa (Communication Office), Thereza Agada Ene (IYA), and Abe Baggi Zaccheaus Isuw.

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.