Youth initiative in agribusiness helping transform African agriculture

Mercy Haruna Wakawa from Borno State, Nigeria, was looking forward to getting a job after graduating from the University of Maiduguri where she studied Food Science and Technology. After so many futile efforts to get a job, and almost at the point of giving up, she got the opportunity to participate in enterprise development training with other youths from Borno State in September 2014.

“I was not keen but enlisted for the training just to be part of anything. I did not know that something meaningful was going to come out of it. The training was organized by the IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA) at the IITA Kano Station (in northern Nigeria). It was a three-week, mind-changing, intensive training, which covered topics in agribusiness, entrepreneurship, ICT in agribusiness, fish farming, and science-driven agricultural practices,” she said.

“After the training, with counselling and encouragement, I reluctantly ventured into postharvest processing of groundnut. The business took off in January 2016. I was given a starter package by N2Africa, a project implemented by IITA.”

Today, she is the founder and Managing Director of a successful agribusiness company, Confianza Global Resources, that processes groundnut into oil and cake for livestock feed. Her journey into agribusiness started with the interventions of the IITA Youth Agripreneur program and N2Africa.

Mercy says groundnut processing is a profitable business. Confianza Global Resources currently employs four youths from the host community. The business has also created livelihood opportunities for many women in groundnut processing and marketing in the host and neighboring communities.

Zaccheus Izuwa is the proprietor of Sorgi Enterprises, which is into grain supply, seed production, and consultancy. He started the business in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, after incubation with IITA in 2015. The business found a niche in production and aggregation of sorghum grains, making its first sale in 2016. Sorgi aims to become the leading producer and supplier of clean high-quality sorghum grains in West Africa. It now provides seeds and grains to big private sector partners such as Honeywell Flour Mills and Guinness Nigeria Ltd., and to the IITA Business Incubation Platform, IITA’s commercialization arm, which produces Aflasafe, a biocontrol product that controls aflatoxin, and NoduMax, a bioinoculant that fixes nitrogen to improve the yield of legumes, such as soybean.

According to Izuwa it was the challenge of youth unemployment across Nigeria and Africa at large and the ever increasing hunger threat that were the major propelling force for his business. “I want to employ other youths and also contribute in the fight against hunger and malnutrition in Nigeria through this business.”

“Sorgi Enterprise is evidence of the fact that youth without prior exposure to agriculture can be actively engaged in the sector through adequate mentoring and coaching. Our academic qualifications and enthusiasm can help ensure success in the way we go about our businesses.”

Top Notch Poultry, a feed-to-fork broiler business invested $120,000 to increase its revenue from $90,000 to $200,000, and has 9 staff which it hopes to increase to 26 by year’s end. The company is building a small-scale commercial reference-farm with feed mill, parent stock, incubation, hatching, growing, processing and retail/food units for research, training, and franchising. The business adopts the latest industry innovations, including a multi-cracker for cutting feed rather than milling, on-farm hatching, and the use of energy efficient panel brooders which imitate the natural environment in which the birds grow.

With support from IITA’s Youth Agripreneur program, and a fully repaid start-up loan of $14,000 in January 2017, the company now sells 500 chickens per week. “We want to grow the business this year to 1,000 chickens per week, and seek further investment to train other youth and establish a revolving fund to establish their own franchises,” explains Ibukun Agbotoba, youth agripreneur and co-owner.

These youth agricultural entrepreneurs or “agripreneurs” all went through IITA’s youth incubation program, a model that is attracting the attention of many development organizations and funders. This formula for youth engagement in agriculture is being adopted by other development projects and government programs promoting job creation and employment, including Nigeria and the other sub-Saharan African countries.

These stories are repeated in other countries in sub-Saharan Africa where the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and IYA have started a chapter or trained youth in agricultural business and value chain enterprises or provided start-up packages.

IITA will showcase to stakeholders in the agricultural sector in Germany how it is contributing to the transformation and development of African agriculture through agricultural innovations that meet the continent’s most pressing challenges of hunger, malnutrition, natural degradation, and youth unemployment.

The side event will take place after the IITA Board of Trustees meeting scheduled on 26 April at the Center for Development Research (ZEF), University of Bonn, in Germany, which is hosting the meeting.

The IITA Director General, Dr Nteranya Sanginga, will give a presentation titled the ‘African Agricultural Transformation: The IITA Agripreneur Approach to Job Creation.’ Sanginga will talk on how IITA trained, mentored, and coached unemployed young people such as Mercy, Zaccheus, and Ibukun, to embrace agriculture as a business and create jobs and wealth. Zaccheus and Ibukun will also be presenting on their stories and experiences in setting up their agribusinesses.

According to Sanginga, “Part of the challenges facing Africa is the ageing population of the active food-producing farmers which is roughly 60 years. We need a new generation of farmers to produce our food in the future. Also, the rate of food importation in the continent is $35 billion per year, which is estimated to increase to $110 billion if nothing is done by 2025. Yet the continent has over 60 percent of the arable land in the world and over 60 percent of the young people—who constitute the larger percentage of the population in Africa—are jobless and not contributing to its economic development,” he said.

“We need to mobilize this dynamic, vibrant, resilient, and active sector of our population, give them support to succeed in agribusiness and innovative agricultural enterprises through training, incubation, and start-ups, and ensure Africa’s, if not the world’s food supplies in the future,” Sanginga reiterated.

IITA established the IITA Youth Agripreneurs in 2012 to train young people from diverse academic backgrounds towards revitalizing the agricultural sector through food production, food safety, as well as research and technology dissemination to African farmers.

“By breeding a younger and more innovative and educated generation of farmers, IITA is helping ensure that the young people take over from the older generation of farmers, and industrialize the sector through the establishment of self-sustainable agribusiness enterprises which give young people the opportunity to create jobs for others,” explained Prof. Christian Borgemeister, ZEF Director and a member of the IITA Board.

IITA and IYA have trained over 2,000 youth in countries like DR Congo, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, and Tanzania along various value chains, many of them establishing agribusiness enterprises.

For instance, the N2Africa project, which work through partnerships using effective production technologies including inoculants (NoduMax) and phosphorus fertilizers, has a strong focus on engaging youth as agents of change towards increased food production, improved livelihoods, and reduced unemployment. This is done through mentorship and capacity building on new agricultural production technologies, entrepreneurship development, provision of starter packages, and facilitating access to credit. More than 120 trained youth are currently employed in agribusiness activities in the northern part of Nigeria.

In the same vein, IITA set up the Business Incubation Platform (BIP) in its headquarters in Ibadan, to scale out its research and technologies to help ensure that 11 million people are raised out of poverty and redirect the sustainable use of 7.5 million hectares of degraded land. BIP hires young men and women in its operations, who are also trained in various aspects of agricultural production, processing, marketing, and networking; and works with start-up agribusinesses set up by youth that have undergone incubation with IITA and IYA.

The model has since been adopted by the African Development Bank for a continent-wide youth-in-agribusiness initiative known as ENABLE Youth Program. ENABLE Youth aims to use over $1 billion to provide over 8 million agribusiness jobs and support agricultural enterprises within 5 years for unemployed young women and men.

IITA long-term trials validate ISFM benefits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New partnership celebrates scientific innovations shaping global agriculture today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Study finds gaps in Nigeria’s extension system

A study on the training needs assessment of extension agents in Nigeria has revealed several gaps and constraints that have limited the effectiveness of the extension service in the country.

Atser, presenting the findings of the extension study in China.
Atser, presenting the findings of the extension study in China.

While presenting a paper on “The capacity of extension staff in managing weeds in cassava systems in Nigeria” in Nanning, China, during the World Congress on Root and Tuber Crops, the Communication and Knowledge Exchange expert of the Cassava Weeds Project at IITA-Nigeria, Godwin Atser, said that “Maximizing the benefits of improved weed management technologies in cassava systems by farmers entails that extension workers must have the capacity to transfer the improved knowledge from research stations to farmers.”

Put at 1:3011, the ratio of one extension worker for over 3000 farmers drastically fell short of the target of the Nigerian Government to have one agricultural extension worker attached to 800 farmers, posing a serious challenge to the agricultural transformation agenda of the government.

Atser said that apart from the grossly inadequate number of extension workers, the study indicated that the existing workers were older and lacked capacity as a result of underfunding and basic requirements, causing inefficiency.

The study specifically investigated the capabilities of extension staff of Agricultural Development Programs (ADPs) in weed management in cassava systems in Nigeria.

“The findings of the study,” Atser said, “showed that more than 80 percent of extension staff has not had training that specifically targets weed management in cassava.

“There is a knowledge gap on weed identification, types of herbicides, cassava varietal identification, and computer skills among extension staff.

“Furthermore, the extension system in Nigeria is male dominated and most extension agents are 50 years and above. Radio, telephone, and group discussions were the most used communication channels for technology transfer to farmers by extension staff.”

He recommended training extension staff in sustainable management of weeds in cassava systems with specific emphasis on weed identification, herbicide use and application, cassava varietal identification, gender, and computer skills.

Atser concluded by calling for the recruitment of young, educated, and upwardly mobile agricultural extension workers in Nigeria, with intensive capacity development to meet up with the need for effective dissemination of information to farmers on new technologies, varieties, and market opportunities.

Global congress unveils huge scientific evidence on root and tuber crops

The First World Congress on Root and Tuber Crops held in Nanning, China, highlighted the enormous amount of work being done by the research community on these important crops.
The First World Congress on Root and Tuber Crops held in Nanning, China, highlighted the enormous amount of work being done by the research community on these important crops.

The World Congress on Root and Tuber Crops (WCRTC), held in Nanning, China, on 18-23 January, provided a wealth of scientific information on roots and tubers—more than has been imagined. More than 540 abstracts were presented, cutting across breeding, value chain, and genomics. Being the first of its kind, the WCRTC brought together more than 560 participants including researchers, policymakers, development partners, industrialists, and farmers, according to Claude Fauquet, Coordinator of the WCRTC.

Peter Kulakow, IITA Cassava Breeder, said the breadth and depth of information shared by researchers at the conference was of immense value to the scientific community.

“I see both African scientists and researchers from other parts of the world benefiting from the knowledge shared here,” he said. Kulakow emphasized that the conference provided a great opportunity for young researchers to present their work to a global audience.

Grown mostly in the developing world, root and tuber crops (RTC), including cassava, sweet potato, yam, potato, cocoyam, and other root crops, are important to the agriculture and food security of more than 100 countries. Overall, they are a component of the diet for 2.2 billion people as well as contributing to animal feeds and industry. Attention and in particular funding for research of these important staples are still behind crops such as wheat and maize—a situation that has affected the amount of scientific evidence on the crops.

The WCRTC, however, revealed that much has been achieved especially in the area of genomics with several presentations highlighting the parallels and contrasts from the global south and the rest of the world.

“From the presentations, I have seen a lot of valuable work going on especially on cassava. This conference actually provides us a space to work together,” said Graham Thiele, Director of the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas.

The WCRTC was a unique opportunity for exchanging expert and scientific advice on RTCs—in particular for the global South by facilitating the discourse among key root and tuber crops stakeholders such as farmers, end-users, researchers, the private sector, and donor agencies.

It aimed to raise awareness of the importance of RTCs in the world, reviewing recent scientific progress, identifying and setting priorities for new opportunities and challenges as well as charting a course to seek R&D support for areas where it is currently inadequate or lacking.

The First WCRTC was a result of the merger of the 3rd Scientific Conference of the Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st Century (GCP21) and the 17th Symposium of the International Society for Tropical Root Crops (ISTRC).

More than 20 IITA oral presentations and even more posters were featured during the parallel workshops and presentations. IITA also participated in the exhibition, which highlighted the benefits of the Institute’s R4D work not only on RTCs, but other important African staples as well.

DG Sanginga leads CGIAR delegates to AfDB’s Feed Africa planning meeting

IITA Director General Nteranya Sanginga led a CGIAR delegation comprising other DGs from AfricaRice, the International Livestock Research Institute, and the International Food Policy Research Institute, to a planning meeting on 21-22 January in Abidjan. The meeting was convened by the African Development Bank (AfDB) to discuss resolutions from AfDB’s High Level Conference on African Agricultural Transformation, which underscored the need for Africa to “execute a bold plan to achieve rapid agricultural transformation by raising agricultural productivity.” Other attendees included representatives from the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), Dalberg Global Development Advisor, and Africa Harvest.

Participants of a preparatory meeting on “FeedAfrica: A collaborative plan for CGIAR Center Support of the AfDB’s African Agricultural Transformation Agenda” on 20 January 2016 at AfricaRice Headquarters in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. (From left to right: Dr Paul Woomer, IITA's Kenya Country Leader; AfricaRice Director General Dr Harold Roy-Macauley; IITA Director General Dr Nteranya Sanginga;  Chief Executive Officer of Africa Harvest Dr Florence Wambugu; ILRI Director General Dr Jimmy Smith; FARA Executive Director Dr Yemi Akinbamijo; IFPRI Director for Africa Dr Ousmane Badiane; AfricaRice DDG and incoming DG of AVRDC-The World Vegetable Center Dr Marco Wopereis) The partners in FeedAfrica proposal include the following CGIAR Centers (IITA [lead], AfricaRice, ICARDA, CIAT, ICRISAT, IFPRI, ILRI, CIMMYT, CIP, IWMI, ICRAF and WorldFish) as well as FARA, AVRDC-The World Vegetable Center, CABI and Africa Harvest.
Participants of a preparatory meeting on “FeedAfrica: A collaborative plan for CGIAR Center Support of the AfDB’s African Agricultural Transformation Agenda” on 20 January 2016 at AfricaRice Headquarters in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.
(From left to right: Dr Paul Woomer, IITA’s Kenya Country Leader; AfricaRice Director General Dr Harold Roy-Macauley; IITA Director General Dr Nteranya Sanginga; Chief Executive Officer of Africa Harvest Dr Florence Wambugu; ILRI Director General Dr Jimmy Smith; FARA Executive Director Dr Yemi Akinbamijo; IFPRI Director for Africa Dr Ousmane Badiane; AfricaRice DDG and incoming DG of AVRDC-The World Vegetable Center Dr Marco Wopereis)
The partners in FeedAfrica proposal include the following CGIAR Centers (IITA [lead], AfricaRice, ICARDA, CIAT, ICRISAT, IFPRI, ILRI, CIMMYT, CIP, IWMI, ICRAF and WorldFish) as well as FARA, AVRDC-The World Vegetable Center, CABI and Africa Harvest.
During his inaugural remarks as President of AfDB, Akinwumi Adesina highlighted the Bank’s focus on five priority areas to achieve the much anticipated advancement in Africa’s transformation agenda: light up and power Africa, feed Africa, integrate Africa, industrialize Africa, and improve the quality of life for the people of Africa.

Speaking on the principles for raising Africa’s agricultural productivity by 2025, DG Sanginga enjoined participants to work towards identifying and eradicating all obstacles preventing agriculture on the continent from becoming a thriving business venture, and said that milestones achieved in the initiative must be presented in clear and measurable terms.

“The end result of interventions in the Feeding Africa initiative should be thriving small, medium, and large-scale agribusinesses in every segment of key value chains on the continent…We must resolve how to tackle production constraints such as land tenure and lack of expertise, for instance…After the development of a technology and outreach plan, we need to determine what CGIAR can do to enable interventions; for example: improved technologies such as new varieties, seed systems, natural resource management practices, processing, incubation of agribusinesses along the value chain, to attract private sector investment/interest,” he said.

CGIAR centers were particularly enlisted to drive the Feeding Africa initiative because of their long years of groundbreaking and innovative agricultural research. It is anticipated that this joint effort will speed up the continent’s move towards achieving food security and also equip future generations with new knowledge to sustain Africa’s agricultural advancement.

Looking forward, the Bank plans to partner with CGIAR and FARA, with IITA taking the lead, to revitalize and transform agriculture with the goal of Feeding Africa within the shortest possible time.

As a first step, IITA will be organizing a Program Identification and Preparation Workshop in its Ibadan campus, on 22-26 February. Directors General of the various CGIAR centers and African NARS who have expressed interest in the program have been invited to join an AfDB Program Mission team to the workshop, during which crucial steps to move the Initiative towards full proposal development will be discussed. The implementation of the Feeding Africa Program is expected to effectively start by 1 January 2017.

Former IITA staff member gets prestigious pan-African award

NewAfrican―Pan-Africa’s best selling magazine has named John Godson, a former IITA staff member, one of the 100 most influential Africans in 2015. Godson was recognized for his laudable efforts to change Polish attitudes about Africa.

GODSONThe magazine wrote:

The Nigerian has managed to accomplish one of the most interesting feats in the Diaspora. He became the first black member of the Polish Parliament as part of the Polish People’s Party. He managed to accomplish this at the height of racial tensions in the country. Since he won his seat, he has devoted a large part of his time to trying to change Polish attitudes to Africa and black people.

“I’ve always said and still underline, that in my opinion there is no racism in Poland. There is, however, something that I call low intercultural competencies. And this can be changed by more contact between different cultures
and societal groups. No law can change the mentality of people.”

Last week, IITA signed an MoU with his organization, the African Institute, Poland (AI), under which both parties agreed to establish a link to foster cooperation for the development and implementation of collaborative programs, especially in the areas of biotechnology and agribusiness.

Panel discussion at Future Food Summit puts aflatoxins in the limelight

Aflatoxins and their impact on health and how to control them were one of the topics of a panel discussion at The Future of Food: The Nexus of Food and Health summit co-hosted by the global affairs magazine Diplomatic Courier and Mars Incorporated  at the National Press Club, Washington DC, on 13 May 2015.

The topic was “Aflatoxins, the most urgent food safety challenge facing the world? The panel members were  Dr Kitty Cardwell, National Program Leader; the US Department of Agriculture (USDA); the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA); John Lamb, Principal Associate, Agriculture and Food Security, Abt Associates Inc.; Barbara Stinson, Senior Partner, Meridian Institute; and the Project Director, Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA) –in which IITA is a key partner. The event was moderated by Dr Howard-Yana Shapiro, Chief Agricultural Officer, Mars Incorporated.

The discussion highlighted the toxic threats faced by many communities in developing countries especially in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Dr Shapiro said over 4.5 billion people were affected by aflatoxins annually and termed it “a crisis”, yet the issue is underfunded and does not receive adequate attention.

Dr Kitty Cardwell, a former plant pathologist at IITA and leader of maize research, said it was during her research at IITA that the alarm was raised on aflatoxins when very high levels were found in maize in Nigeria. Barbara Stinson spoke on the ongoing efforts by PACA, a Pan-African initiative launched in 2012 and led by the African Union (AU), to put in place measures to control the poison including a comprehensive policy regime across the continent. She also mentioned the biocontrol technology in which IITA is taking a lead as one of the solutions PACA is promoting. John Lamb from Abt said adequate reporting and investment were both lacking for aflatoxins although it was a major development problem. They had a negative impact on agriculture affecting animals, livestock, fish, and humans directly. They also had a huge impact on the value of agricultural produce in the market. The poison is suspected to directly cause stunting, lowered immunity, and liver cancer and increases vulnerability to hepatitis B, TB, and HIV/Aids. There was a lot to be worried about in health, agriculture
and nutrition, and trade. The summit brought together leading experts on issues concerning food, health, nutrition, and wellness and looked at the vital role collaboration across sectors can play in sustainably addressing the world’s most pressing food and health challenges.
It was attended by representatives from diverse organizations such as the
UN World Food Programme; the University of California, Davis; and the White House. See video on the session here.

IITA scientists participate in a workshop organized by Gates Foundation

Four IITA scientists, Drs Norbert Maroya, Djana Mignouna, Victor Manyong, and Thomas Wobill, joined 64 other partners from different research institutions, NGOs, universities,  USAID, and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation at the Swissôtel Nai Lert Park, Bangkok, Thailand, 26–28 May for a learning workshop. The workshop was organized by the Monitoring, Learning & Evaluation (MLE) team on Agricultural Development of the Gates Foundation.

L-R: IITA Scientists Drs Norbert Maroya, Djana Mignouna, Victor Manyong, and Thomas Wobill during the meeting in Thailand.
L-R: IITA Scientists Drs Norbert Maroya, Djana Mignouna, Victor Manyong, and Thomas Wobill during the meeting in Thailand.

The experts converged to build a shared learning agenda on technology adoption, discuss the dearth of credible data around the adoption of technologies and practices, and reach a consensus for improving measurement techniques to deliver credible data to the agricultural sector. All are aimed at reducing poverty and increasing the agricultural productivity of smallholder farmers in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

The discussions were focused on establishing what works, as well as on identifying the gaps that remain in the knowledge base on technology adoption. Other objectives of the workshop were as follows:

Arrive at a common understanding of issues related to adoption, specifically ideas in planning, promoting, and measuring adoption

Identify best practices in adoption planning, promotion, and measurement

Co-create a list of open questions, existing gaps and constraints, and known opportunities to measure the adoption of agricultural developments

As a result of IITA’s participation in the meeting there are shared lessons which are expected to facilitate learning among collaborating partners. The main achievement was the development of a list of significant questions pertinent to adoption which helped to build a strong knowledge base for both the Gates Foundation AgDev Program and partners.

The challenges identified were that many pockets of credible evidence existed but shared learning was infrequent. Different adoption studies tried to answer questions of the same type and often in the same locations, without collaboration. This duplication of efforts leads to a waste of resources. To prevent these, some common tools for adoption will be developed by participants.

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