IITA, CFIL launch the first reality TV show on agriculture

IITA and its partner, the Corporate Farmers International (CFIL), organized a press conference at IITA headquarters in Ibadan in December 2015 to announce plans for Nigeria’s first agribusiness television reality show.

DG Sanginga speaks at the press conference in IITA.
DG Sanginga speaks at the press conference in IITA.

The reality TV show aims to promote and attract youths to get actively involved in agriculture and agribusiness using the reality show platform as a means of engagement.

In his welcome address, Kenton Dashiell, IITA Deputy Director General, Partnerships and Capacity Development, said that the reality show will expose the various opportunities inherent in agriculture. He said that the right platform can help agriculture become a sector for development that will actively engage youth.

During his keynote address, IITA’s Director General, Nteranya Sanginga, said now is the time for everybody to embrace agriculture with the dwindling price of crude oil in Nigeria and other parts of the world. He said the best way to revive the agriculture sector is to actively involve the youth who have the techniques and skills to bring the needed change in the sector.

He added that IITA has experimented with this approach in the last three years and will not hesitate to support others who want to use the IITA model.

Boason Omofaye of CFIL, explains the rationale behind the reality TV show.
Boason Omofaye of CFIL, explains the rationale behind the reality TV show.

The head of communication and strategy at CFIL, Boason Omofaye, said the show will provide answers to where and how to engage the youth in agriculture. He added that the concept of the show will attract the corporate world to invest in young farmers.

Also Seyi Ifelaja, an agribusiness consultant with CFIL, emphasized that the show will use the IITA Youth Agripreneurs as a case study for the show. The show is expected to commence within the premises of IITA in the second quarter of 2016. The winner of the first season will go home with a grand prize of about $25,000.

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”.

Ruben
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.

Osun State allocates 200 ha land to IITA to establish a Center of Excellence for agricultural research

On 7 July, Dr Charles ‘Diji’ Akinola, Head, Office of Economic Development and Partnerships (OEDP) and Coordinator Osun Rural Enterprise and Agricultural Program (O-REAP), led a seven- member team of representatives from O-REAP, OEDP, Osun Ministry of Agriculture, and the Office of the Surveyor General to Ibadan. The visit was to begin the process of formalizing an agreement on the use of the 200 ha at Agba Ogun –one of the areas of high agricultural production allocated by the Osun State Government to IITA for the next 49 years.

The delegates from the State of Osun (third-eighth and eleventh from left) flanked by IITA scientists and members of staff.
The delegates from the State of Osun (third-eighth and eleventh from left) flanked by IITA scientists and members of staff.

The Osun State Government had allocated the land to IITA as part of efforts to ensure that the majority of Osun youth and farming families in the neighboring communities and farm settlements will be able to maximize crop yields and increase the productivity of their farms through certified seeds of high yielding improved varieties, best-bet agronomy, and crop protection practices. The farmland will be supervised partly by O-REAP which is energetically seeking to ensure mass production of food in the State.

Dr Akinola said that it was also part of Government’s attempt to reduce dependence on crude oil and to shift to agriculture with the target of capturing 10% of the total food bill from neighboring Lagos State, currently estimated at USD 23 billion. “The State of Osun relies on IITA with over 45 years of award winning research to achieve this feat” Dr Akinola said. He added “In the next couple of years, we expect to have a site in Osun where IITA can visibly show the practical impact of its research…We are also looking at a situation where IITA can have a positive impact on the lives of small-scale farmers occupying about 30,000 ha in 28 communities around the allocated site through research that will provide them with opportunities. We also expect IITA to develop creative ways of integrating agroforestry into the farming systems. We expect approaches that work in the State of Osun will be successful across southern Nigeria, especially focusing on crops such as cocoa, oil palm, plantain, maize, and cassava.”

Dr Kenton Dashiell, DDG Partnerships and Capacity Development, disclosed that IITA intends to conduct research directly relevant to address the needs of the farmers in the area whilst ensuring the long-term sustainability of the land. Specifically, IITA plans to deploy scientists to conduct research in the area and the IITA Youth Agripreneurs will start a project to multiply high quality and clean planting materials of plantain and cassava for surrounding communities in the next three years.

“One of the things fundamental to our work as a research institute is the long-term sustainability of the land,” said Dr Dashiell. “We want to do our work in the State of Osun 100 times even better than we did in Ibadan, therefore we will focus on preventing soil degradation …we also do see a great need to work with established youth groups in Osun.”

He added, “IITA sees this proposed innovative partnership as a big win for the people and the Osun State Government and believes that over the years it will grow into a very productive relationship for all concerned.  It may become a model for how State Governments in Nigeria and all over Africa can partner with research organizations to make sure the research conducted is relevant and that the results are taken to the farmers as fast as possible.”

Dr Robert Asiedu, IITA Director West Africa, emphasized that IITA was committed to invest in the work planned in Osun to ensure top quality results, particularly in land use planning. “We hope to demonstrate that land can be used in a very sustainable fashion on this site over a long period,” he said.

To push the agreement into real action, Dr Stefan Hauser, Root and Tuber Systems Agronomist at IITA, and Ms Sylvia Oyinlola, IITA Regional Administrator, will deploy the GIS team from IITA to map the entire area and open access roads along the boundaries. This will give IITA immediate access to set up trials, demonstrations, and multiplication fields to serve the farming community so they can start benefiting from IITA’s expertise without delay, pending the signing of an MoU formalizing this partnership.

IITA’s Youth Agripreneurs program takes root in Uganda

The Uganda chapter of the IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA) program that seeks to attract educated young people to agribusiness was officially launched on Wednesday 24 June 2015 in Mukono District.

IITA DG speaking to one of the Uganda youth Agripreneurs during a field visit to see some of the farming activities they are already engaged in.
IITA DG speaking to one of the Uganda youth Agripreneurs during a field visit to see some of the
farming activities they are already engaged in.

The Uganda Youth Agripreneurs (UYA) was started in Nabbale, Mukono District, in collaboration with the National Agricultural Research Organisation,  Makerere University and Mukono Local Government. It brings together university graduates in the area from diverse backgrounds that will be trained on modern farming methods, processing, value addition to agricultural produce, and entrepreneurship.

The project was launched by Mr Katooto Habib, a Member of Parliament, in an event that brought together different stakeholders including policymakers, researchers, civil society, and the private and public sectors.

In his speech, MP Habib encouraged the youth to take advantage of the cutting edge technologies in agriculture and urged them to be patient and embrace the saving culture as well. Dr Maggie Kigozi, former Director of Uganda Investment Authority and a major shareholder in Pepsicola Uganda, urged the young people not to see themselves as powerless but instead use the different networks that they have already established to start something meaningful.

The IITA Director General, Dr Sanginga Nteranya on his part advised the youth to be aggressive and very fast and to always consider gender equity in whatever they are doing.“IITA is going to support you in technology, knowledge, and advocacy but you should do the rest of the activities by yourselves,” he said.

The Uganda National Agricultural Research organization (NARO) was also going to provide the youth with technologies that would help in furthering this new journey they had started, according to Dr. Ambrose Agona, NARO Director General. He noted there was a lot of energy in the youth that could be tapped and put to good use.

Dr Piet van Asten, IITA–Uganda country representative, said the formation of the youth program was in response to the high priority during stakeholder engagement exercises that was placed on youth unemployment in Mukono and Wakiso, two districts where the IITA-led Humidtropics program is operating.

“Starting this program today here in Mukono,” he said, “is an indication not only of the usefulness of stakeholder engagement in priority setting but also of the willingness on the research side to follow through what is demanded by the stakeholders.”

Others at the event were Dr Victor Manyong, IITA Director for East Africa; Mr Buyungo Musa, the Coordinator for Parliamentary Forum on Food Security and Population Issues in the Parliament of Uganda, representatives of IYA from Nigeria, Kenya, and Tanzania, and representatives from other partnering institutions such as Makerere University, Uganda Christian University (UCU) as well as various farmers’ organizations.

IYA from Uganda, Nigeria and Tanzania in a group photo with some of the dignitaries present at the launch.
IYA from Uganda, Nigeria and Tanzania in a group photo with some of the dignitaries present at the launch.

Preparing Uganda and Tanzania for future climate challenges through engagement and scenario-building

The Policy Action for Climate Change Adaptation (PACCA) project is building a more climate-responsive future with policy-makers in Tanzania and Uganda.

A targeted approach, with scientists working directly with policy-makers and smallholders finding solutions to agriculture and climate related issues, could be the key to scaling-up climate-smart farming. This is exactly what the Policy Action for Climate Change (PACCA) project, led by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), is aiming for. The four-year climate project is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and  Food Security (CCAFS) Flagship on “Policies and Institutions for Climate-Resilient Food Systems”.

Testing policies against future socio-economic scenarios

By striking up collaboration with CCAFS Future Scenarios team, the PACCA project invited stakeholders to review the National Agriculture Policy and Mechanization Framework in Uganda as well as the new National Environment Policy in Tanzania, testing the policies against multiple, all highly potential scenarios for the two countries. The scenarios were used as a ‘crash test’ to make the policy frameworks more climate-sensitive and robust.

In mid-February participants came for two consecutive national workshops in Tanzania and Uganda. The stakeholders represented the Vice President’s Office, Prime Minister’s Office, and Ministry of Agriculture, of Livestock and Fisheries Development in Tanzania and in Uganda, the Ministry of Water and Environment and Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries.

Read the whole story at: Preparing Uganda and Tanzania for future climate challenges through engagement and scenario-building| CCAFS: CGIAR research program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security.

Watch Project Coordinator Edidah Ampaire talk about the PACCA project, who the team is working with and main challenges faced so far:

Creating future scenarios to inform new Tanzanian environmental policy

Tanzania launches policy action to contain climate change adversities on the economy

Tanzania, Uganda launch climate change pact

Policy Action: Uganda Agriculture Minister approves revisions on country’s National Seed Policy

Group photo of workshop participants
Group photo of workshop participants

The Policy Action for Crop Intensification (PASIC) project has made great progress in supporting Uganda in developing its National Food Policy after the revisions made on the country’s National Seed Strategy were approved by the Minister for Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries. The revisions will be submitted along with the National Seed Policy document to Uganda’s cabinet for review.

This is a great milestone for this project in which  IITA, Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) are working closely with Uganda’s Agriculture ministry to set up policies and actions for sustainable agricultural intensification to boost the production of small-holder farmers

The National Seed Policy had been reviewed and validated at a Stakeholder’s meeting held last year. This had brought together key players in the sector from private seed companies, local seeds businesses, researchers, district officials, relevant ministries, and parliamentarians.

The seed strategy validation was followed up by further review of the regulations for agricultural chemical control in a process led by the Department of Crop Inspection and Certification of the Agriculture ministry and the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs (MoJCA) in January, 2015. The specific agricultural chemical control regulations include the seed and plant control, pest control and pesticide application equipment regulations.

Director Okaasai opens workshop on the National Seed Strategy of Uganda
Director Okaasai opens workshop on the National Seed Strategy of Uganda

According to Pamela Pali, the PASIC project coordinator, “This is a great milestone for the project and the agriculture sector in the country; access and use of improved seeds by farmers are critical in boosting agriculture production under agriculture intensification.”

She said the seed supply system in Uganda was mostly led by the poorly regulated informal sector which had 80% of the share market; the formal sector taking up the other 20%.  “Currently we have around 20 seed companies that make  up the formal seed supply system that is regulated through the public regulatory system from seed production to certification. The informal seed system, on the other hand, has no organized seed production chain, and is heavily unregulated,” she said.

During the various discussions in the validation process for the National Seed Strategy, several issues were discussed such as the consequences of implementing a private sector led national seed industry and evidence to show how biodiversity will be protected and preserved – passionate issues for the advocacy bodies.

It was agreed that an autonomous body to regulate the seed sector should be established.  Although quality control was seen as the primarily the role of government, the formation of private sector partnership was advocated to encourage competitiveness and efficiency.

Stakeholder from  agricultural research institutions, NGOs  and Uganda’s parliament study the national Seed strategy with a facilitator
Stakeholder from agricultural research institutions, NGOs and Uganda’s parliament study the national Seed strategy with a facilitator

Other key areas agreed upon included the need to build capacity of Quality Declared Seed (QDS) producers – the seed policy has a target to have 20% of the seed as QDS being produced by the informal seed sector. In addition, the mechanisms for self-regulation and internal quality management mechanisms among seed actors were to be strengthened and seed companies to provide extension services beyond the demonstration fields and they, as well as the seed traders, should have at least a seed technologist or technician amongst their staff.

The PASIC project is not only engaged in policy action for policies relevant to crop intensification such as the seed, fertilizer policy and extension; is also conducting research to analyse the bottlenecks in these policies.  This component is led by the by EPRC. From the stakeholder perspective, IITA is conducting research on the engagement of stakeholders in the policy processes. This research includes the analysis of the influence of policy processes and the dis/connect of actors on sustainable crop intensification in Uganda at national, district, and local levels and consideration of gender at these levels.

PASIC has also been collaborating with other projects such as USAID’s Enabling Environment in Agriculture (EEA) – agricultural inputs activity and the Integrated Seed Sector Development (ISSD) to contribute to the project’s efforts to create a favorable policy environment towards intensification of agriculture in the country.

Video:  EFFORTS TO ELIMINATE FAKE SEEDS

SARD-SC demonstrates improved cassava farming practices to spur production in Kigoma, Tanzania

Dr Habaye explain to the farmers the on-going agronomy trials to farmers during the field day.
Dr Habaye explaining to the farmers the on-going agronomy trials to farmers during the field day.

The Support to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops in Africa (SARD-SC) project led by the International of Institute Tropical Agriculture (IITA) held a successful one-day farmers field day to demonstrate the improved cassava production technologies it was piloting to increase the crop’s productivity while at the same time conserving and maintaining soil fertility.

The event also enabled the project to get feedback from the farmers on the technologies that they preferred and which they would readily adopt to enhance productivity of cassava in the region to improve food and nutritional security and contribute to poverty reduction.

The technologies demonstrated at the event, held on 27 February 2014 at Kakonko District, Kigoma Region, in Tanzania, included intercropping and the use of fertilizers and new improved varieties.

??????????Dr Mboyi Mugendi, a Zonal Research Director at the Lake Zone Agricultural Research and Development Institute (LZARDI) hailed the technologies being piloted by the SARD-SC project saying they had the potential to increase production of cassava, one of the region’s key staple crops, and contribute to efforts to improve food security and reduce poverty in the region.

“The improved cassava farming technologies being piloted by the project have the potential to significantly boost cassava production in this region and at the same time conserve soil fertility. However, the farmers will also need further training in order to adopt the new technologies being piloted,” said Dr Mugendi.

Dr.Mboyi Mgendi from LZARD,explaining on benefit of soil measure before application of any technologies to farmers.
Dr.Mboyi Mugendi from LZARD,explaining on benefit of soil measure before application of any technologies to farmers.

He added: “There is need to create awareness among the farmers on the importance of testing their soils so they can know the deficient minerals and the best crops to grow and fertilizers to use. They also need support in the testing.”

Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD) and Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) were identified as major challenges threatening production of cassava in the region. Dr Simon Jeremiah from LZARDI briefed the farmers on the two diseases, their symptoms, and the measures to take to stop their spread.

He also urged farmers to invest in the production of clean seeds and to change to the improved cassava varieties which are tolerant to the two diseases that the project will recommend from its trials.

Dr Jeremiah demonstrating symptoms of CMD and CBSD to farmers at Juma Maganga,(Cassva Mosaic and Brownstrak disease) at Kakonko district
Dr Jeremiah demonstrating symptoms of CMD and CBSD to farmers

Mr Christopher Briton Chugwa, Chairman of a farmers group in Kibondo District, said the farmers’ day was important as it exposed farmers to new technologies that had potential to increase yields to motivate them to improve their farming practices.

Miss Veronica Laurence, a farmer from Kiobela Village, said the improved varieties and farming practices being demonstrated by the project had better yields compared to the local varieties and local practices. However she added lack of financial resources was a major barrier to many farmers in adopting the new technologies.

Thanking the project on behalf of the Kakonko District Commissioner, Mrs Tausi Madebo, the Division Officer, said that the technologies demonstrated a lot of potential to boost cassava production. She encouraged farmers to form associations and work as a group to tap into the existing market opportunities for the crop in the area.

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Women farmers keenly listening to the speakers during the field day

Participants at the event included farmers from Kakonko, Kiobela, and Kasanda villages, government officials, and staff from LZARD and IITA.

 The SARD-SC is a multinational project led by several CGIAR centers whose objective is to enhance food and nutrition security and contribute to reducing poverty in selected Regional Membership Countries (RMCs) in Africa. Funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB), it focuses on raising the productivity and profitability of cassava, maize, rice, and wheat.

It is being implemented in Benin Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, DR Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

 

Video: Story of IITA Agripreneurs in Tanzania

Last year, 2014, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) launched an agricultural youth program in Tanzania to contribute to efforts to tackle youth unemployment while, at the same time, using young people to modernize agriculture.

The program is part of an institute wide youth program known as IITA Agripreneurs started at its Headquarters in Ibadan Nigeria three years ago under the leadership of IITA Director General, Nteranya Sanginga. It has since spread to other countries where IITA is working including Kenya, Uganda, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

In Tanzania, the program dubbed ‘IITA Tanzania Youth Agripreneurs’ (IYA) brings together graduates of different disciplines keen on pursuing agriculture as a business.  The group has received training on modern farming methods and processing and value addition.

The group is engaged in four activities: production and processing of cassava, maize and soybean, production of vegetables and offering weeding services.

According to Veronica Kabwe, the chairlady of the group, the program is a very good opportunity for the youth: “We are getting free trainings…. It is a big opportunity and we have to take it as youth. The knowledge is very useful not just for IITA but even at home. It’s a very beneficial program for youth and I advise them to take it very seriously,” she says.

Other links:

Tanzania: Youths Deserve Jobs to Sustain Their Daily Lives

Tanzania trains Agripreneurs for agriculture change

 

 

A high resolution genetic linkage map of cassava published in G3

Cassava roots affected by cassava brown streak diseases - the linkage maps will help breeders in their efforts to develop varieties resistant to this deadly disease.
Cassava roots affected by cassava brown streak diseases – the linkage map will help scientists in their efforts to develop varieties resistant to this and other  deadly diseases.   Photo by J. Legg

A high-resolution linkage map and chromosome scale-genome assembly for cassava by a group of international researchers, including some from IITA, has been published in G3 Genes Genomes Genetics, and highlighted by the Genetics Society of America (http://www.g3journal.org/content/5/1/133.full).

The linkage map was generated by combining 10 genetic maps from 14 diverse parents from African cassava breeding projects including those of IITA in East Africa and Nigeria. It was a collaborative effort  aomg researchers from  IITA, the Agricultural Research Institute (ARI) of Tanzania, National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI) in Uganda, National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) in Nigeria and the University of Berkeley/ Joint Genome Institute, USA.

It was accomplished through two collaborative projects funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. One of them, administered by IITA, focuses on the development of mapping populations, and the other, by  University of Arizona, focuses on improving the cassava genome sequence.

According to Dr Morag Ferguson, IITA’s Cassava Molecular Geneticist, the maps have allowed the aligning of DNA sequence fragments into larger fragments or scaffolds, so that now 90% of the cassava genome assembly is contained in only 30 large fragments, whereas previously it was made up of approximately 13,000 pieces.

“This will be a valuable tool in a number of research areas from diversity assessments to functional genomics and will ultimately assist researchers to efficiently identify and use genetic variation for improved productivity, disease resistance, enhanced nutrition and to develop varieties for industrial processing amongst other applications,’ she said.

This is good news for small-holder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa where currently the crop’s production is greatly threatened by two viral diseases, cassava mosaic disease (CMD) and cassava brown streak disease (CBSD).

Western Africa Hub holds retreat to develop strategy

IITA staff working in the Western Africa Hub met in Ada, Osun State, Nigeria to draw up a strategy that would drive the research agenda in the next decade.
The event began on Thursday 10 April, and ended on Sunday, 13 April. There were brainstorming sessions that cut across the key peculiarities in the region, the science priorities for the Hub, and the alignment of these priorities with CRPs.
Regional staff reviewed key demographics in the bloc with a keen look at agroecological zones, population, crop yields, and the impact of climate change on the region.
Addressing researchers, Dr Robert Asiedu said the major outcome of the meeting was the development of a draft strategy in alignment with the Institute-wide strategy that would be presented to the IITA Board at the next meeting.
The retreat conducted SWOT analysis for the region and reexamined the vision, mission, strategic objective and key performance indicators (KPI). Thomas Wobill, IITA Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, introduced participants to basic M&E concepts including the theory of change and impact pathway.
About 42 members of staff participated in the exercise.

Images at the Retreat

Researchers from IITA W/Africa
Researchers from IITA W/Africa
Dr Robert speaks at the Hub retreat in Ada
Dr Robert speaks at the Hub retreat in Ada
Dr Ranjana makes presentation
Dr Ranjana makes presentation
Dr Badara makes a presentation to plenary
Dr Badara makes a presentation to plenary
Thomas speaks on the Theory of Change and Impact Pathway
Thomas speaks on the Theory of Change and Impact Pathway
Researchers in a brainstorm session
Researchers in a brainstorm session
Brainstorm
Brainstorm
Brainstorm session
Brainstorm session