Agriculture stakeholders in Tanzania hail CGIAR move on integration

Stakeholders in the agricultural sector in Tanzania support the move by CGIAR to integrate the activities of the different centers and research programs (CRPs) and to better align with the country’s priorities in developing its agriculture sector.

Participants at the CGIAR site integration workshop, Tanzania.
Participants at the CGIAR site integration workshop, Tanzania.

The stakeholders agreed on this at a national consultation workshop on CGIAR “site integration” that was held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on 4 December 2015 organized by IITA on behalf of CGIAR and CRPs working in the country. The aim was to discuss how CGIAR/CRPs can work better together and align their activities and research agenda to the country’s priorities. This was the second such workshop organized by IITA for CGIAR; the first one was held in Abuja, Nigeria, in November 2015.

The participants were drawn from the different ministries, national agricultural research systems (NARS), universities, NGOs, donor community, private sector, and farmers’ groups.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Sophia Kaduma, said that integration across the different CRPs and with a wide range of national partners and stakeholders in the agricultural sector can enhance the outcomes of CGIAR’s research agenda.

She noted the potential of the agriculture sector in Tanzania’s efforts to reduce poverty and achieve its developmental goals of shifting to a middle-income economy by 2025, and reiterated the role of research and development to improve agriculture and combat climate change and her government’s commitment to R&D.

Representatives from the donor community including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Irish Aid, USAID, and the World Bank also support the move, which is expected to lead to more efficient use of donor funding and reduction of duplication of efforts.

“Integration” and “alignment” were viewed as important in ensuring that development projects focused on the country’s priorities and not the donors/centers’ whims.

Representatives from the farming communities and the private sector were also at the forum and highlighted some of the challenges they faced. “Farming has to be profitable. As farmers, we face many issues including poor extension services. The extension staff are few, without resources. We are therefore unable to access new technologies from research. Therefore the integration should look at how to support extension to reach farmers,” said Omary Mwaimu from AMSHA Institute.

Participants at the event identified areas where CGIAR/CRP support was needed:

  • Dissemination and adoption of new technologies from research.
  • Business and enterprise development to enable farmers to make money from farming.
  • Capacity building of local researchers especially in areas such as biotechnology.
  • Value addition and management of postharvest losses.
  • Productivity improvement with focus on climate change – one of the major challenges facing smallholder farmers who need support in terms of what crops to grow in the face of climate change.
  • Sustainable intensification of smallholder systems to increase agricultural production and productivity on the same land size but at the same time taking care of their natural resources.

At the end of the workshop, participants came up with a framework for site integration that could help identify the issues and sites as well as suggestions on how to govern and implement the integration, how to monitor and evaluate impact and communicate both within the partners in the integration framework and with external audiences and partners.

For site integration to work, participants agreed that adequate resources should go into its implementation, and to ensure that all the partners are able see the benefit of being part of the integrated approach.

New project launched to address impacts of climate change and variability in cocoa-based farming systems

In Ghana, the world’s second largest exporter of cocoa, a significant impact on smallholder farming in the cocoa belt has been projected from the trend in climate change and variability. To forestall this, CGIAR through its global Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) research program, recently launched an initiative which uses “Climate-smart Agriculture” (CSA) to respond to farmers’ needs.

CSA includes many of the authentic measures that form the backbone of sustainable agriculture. It is also capable of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from farming and helping farmers, the Government, companies, and NGOs to understand the risks posed by climate change and manage them better, thus becoming more resilient.

This new CCAFS project focuses on mainstreaming CSA in cocoa-based farming systems through applied climate science, certified supply chains, and impact investing. Specific attention will be given to ways in which public and private actors can collaborate to promote whole-system adaptation that is viable over the medium to long term and includes the rural poor, particularly vulnerable groups. The project uses existing value chain interventions with smallholder coffee and cocoa systems in Africa and Latin America as model cases.

It will translate climate science into adaptable strategies for farmers and supporting actors including industry, certifiers, and investors. This novel combination adds value to existing work with the goal of achieving widespread adoption for locally relevant CSA practices.

The project aims to do the following.

Assess the climate change exposure of cocoa systems at a subnational scale,

Develop appropriate CSA practices with farmers incorporating cash crops and food crops to increase the resilience of these systems, and

Codify these practices in adaptation guidelines. These guidelines will be made available through existing curricula for certification training and used to develop innovative impact investment products that will help to finance and increase the adoption of adaptation strategies.
To achieve the expected results the project will be implemented by preeminent actors in agricultural climate science: International Center for Tropical Agriculture and IITA, using also voluntary certification (Rainforest Alliance), impact investing (Root Capital), and sustainable agricultural systems (the Sustainable Food Lab).

As a first step to start work, the project team on 13 May convened the first in a series of multi-stakeholder platform meetings with key actors from the cocoa sector in Ghana. The workshop also provided the opportunity to map existing activities of stakeholders and assess how the project could add value to ongoing work in Ghana through partnerships with actors such as COCOBODCRIG, trading houses, and producers’ organizations. The outcome of this first workshop are the seeds for a sweet collaboration that will help Ghanaian cocoa farmers to increase their resilience to climate change and keep consumers happy with chocolate for many more years to come.


IITA Board meets in Zambia; deliberates on strengthening institute in midst of CGIAR crises

From 4 to 6 May, the IITA Board of Trustees (BoT) as well as members of the Institute’s Management and Directorate were in the picturesque town of Livingstone in southern Zambia for the first of their two annual meetings for 2015. Figuring prominently in their agenda were the current financial and governance crises within CGIAR; these were outlined in the mid-term report submitted by the Director General, Dr Nteranya Sanginga, to the Board and circulated to IITA staff.

“For this meeting, we (the Board) mainly deliberated on strategies to strengthen IITA’s position in the context of the finance and governance crises within CGIAR,” said Dr Bruce Coulman, BoT Chair. “Results of our discussions will be communicated to the general IITA community by DG Sanginga in due time.”

IITA BoT members with IITA management and directorate.
IITA BoT members with IITA management and directorate.

However, Dr Ken Dashiell, Deputy Director General for Partnerships & Capacity Development, pointed to communication as a specific area that the BoT highlighted with regard to these strategies. “Time and again, during the course of discussions, the role of communication came out as a common salient point,” Dr Dashiell said.

“The Board agrees that we need to trumpet our R4D successes more actively despite the crises in CGIAR. We
need to enforce our image and credibility as the lead international agricultural research institution in Africa that plods on, despite these challenges. This, then, would make our supporters see that investing in us is well worth it,” he added. Dr Dashiell mentioned IITA Youth Agripreneurs and the Business Incubation Platform as examples of the many successes upon which the Institute must build.

Welcoming the IITA Board to Livingstone, Dr David Chikoye, Regional Director for Southern Africa, said, “It is good to have the Board here (again) in Zambia. This is also a good opportunity to showcase Zambia – Livingstone in particular – as a prime destination, especially in the light of the conference that we will be holding here in 2016.

I am formally inviting the Board members and IITA Management to attend this event.” Dr Chikoye was referring to the Global Cowpea and Legume Conference that IITA will be co-hosting in February-March 2016 in Livingstone. This will be an African signature event to mark 2016 as International Year of Pulses, as declared by the UN.

Transforming IITA to nourish Africa* Frank Rijsberman, CEO, CGIAR Consortium

*blogpost published in

My first visit to IITA was in 1982. As a young scientist with the Delft Hydraulics Lab in the Netherlands I worked on my first soil science project that also happened to become my last. I had obtained funding for a project on the impact of soil erosion on soil productivity and I was looking for good data.  My research led me to IITA soil scientist Rattan Lal who was among the five scientists I had identified across the globe that had the time series data I needed and he agreed to work with me. My funding enabled me to visit all 5 research groups to see their experiments and go over their data.  This was my first visit to Nigeria.

Frank Rijsberman (rightmost) in a huddle with (L-R) Dr Kwesi Attah-Krah, IITA Board Member Roel Merckx, and DG Nteranya Sanginga after the meeting in Ibadan.
Frank Rijsberman (rightmost) in a huddle with (L-R) Dr Kwesi Attah-Krah, IITA Board Member Roel Merckx, and DG Nteranya Sanginga after the meeting in Ibadan.

Staying overnight in Lagos and driving to Ibadan made an indelible impression on me. Lagos was already a bustling megacity and the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway was about getting mad with too many cars, buses and lorries competing for too little space at breakneck speeds. It was the first time ever I saw the burned-out and still burning wrecks of cars and trucks by the side of the road.

And then we arrived at IITA. Once cleared by security the car started up the long driveway, flanked by rolling hills with bright green grass, cut smooth like a golf course, dotted with picturesque palm trees, painted bright white. The contrast of this oasis of quiet prettiness with the chaotic world outside the barbed wire fence could not be greater. A well-oiled, well-maintained, well-equipped island of advanced research. A small army of well-trained Nigerian staff to support a team of senior researchers that were almost without exception white, male and Anglophone — or indeed, Dutch. Rattan Lal was a fine host, had many years of excellent data, and was a great collaborator for my project.

Since then, I have visited and worked in Nigeria quite a bit, including a two-year stint as Chief Technical Advisor of a UNDP project to strengthen the Ministry of Water Resources in Abuja in the late 80s. But fast forward to 2012: I rejoined the CGIAR as the CEO of the CGIAR Consortium in May 2012 and started an effort to visit all 15 Centers. In July-August the Consortium Board Chair, Carlos Perez del Castillo, and I visited AfricaRice in Cotonou, Benin and then traveled overland to Ibadan. We were received by the new DG, Nteranya Sanginga, and the new Board Chair, Bruce Coulman and given the grand tour. We met with scientists, discussed the newly reformed CGIAR, enjoyed presentations of the key science groups, saw the laboratories, and hiked the forest.

The new DG’s enthusiasm was certainly infectious, and it was great to hear of his ambitious plans, but it was also obvious that the institute was a little tired. The infrastructure was aging and the scientists were, too. There were certainly a few young and enthusiastic scientists—in the biosciences group for example—and there were some exciting projects such as the development of aflasafe as a biological control method for aflatoxins, but the labs had that look and feel of many other labs I have seen in Africa. Too much old or broken equipment and too few people behind the benches. Out of nostalgia I asked to see the soils lab, the place where I was hosted 30 years earlier. It was rather sad to see that while it was still active, the place bore clear signs of neglect and chronic under-investment in maintenance and new equipment. There was nothing sad about the people working here, though. On our last night we were invited to a sizzling staff party in which the new DG showed he did not just have big plans but also enjoyed dancing the night away.

Frank (keft) and Ann Tutwiler, DG of Bioversity International, look at aflasafe samples--IITA’s biological control product for aflatoxin management in maize and groundnut.
Frank (keft) and Ann Tutwiler, DG of Bioversity International, look at aflasafe samples–IITA’s biological control product for aflatoxin management in maize and groundnut.

Early March 2015, I had the chance to visit IIITA again, as a participant in the International Conference on Integrated Systems Research organized jointly by the three CGIAR farming systems research programs. The event was the first big international conference organized at IITA after the Ebola Outbreak in 2014 and brought together over a hundred scientists to discuss and agree on a vision, mission, conceptual framework, and value proposition for systems research in the CGIAR. Not an easy task, but an important one if we are serious about sustainable intensification in smallholder agriculture.

For me it was also a chance to see the new IITA. The differences are striking from the moment you drive up that driveway. The first thing you see is the new plant that can produce 5 tons of aflasafe per hour. The rolling hills are still around, but in the dry season the grass looks more naturally savanna-like and brown; the white paint on the palm trees has all but faded away, instead the pink, lilac, and yellow colors of the now flourishing African trees are dominating the colors of the campus.

Next thing I noticed:  the dorms that house junior staff and visitors were newly painted—a first sign of the overall spring cleaning that has occurred at the institute. The impact of the doubling of senior researchers and the close to tripling of the budget is visible everywhere. Many more young scientists were hired — in fact my tour of the Biosciences lab handed me from one young female African scientist to another.

DG Sanginga (second from left) tours the BIP with Frank (second from right) and other guests.
DG Sanginga (second from left) tours the BIP with Frank (second from right) and other guests.

Our tour of the newly constructed Business Incubation Platform led to the aflasafe plant where the manager Lawrence Kaptoge showed us the letter he had just received from the Kenyan Irrigation Board requesting for 8.1 tons of aflasafe, being produced the days of my visit and to be airlifted shortly, with another 22 tons to follow. IITA’s aflasafe research has developed effective products for some 13 African countries now, and is showing the production is viable at small to large scales. This work is on the verge of scaling up and out to millions of farmers, if it can now be successfully commercialized with private sector partners. The aflasafe success has the potential for a massive impact on food safety and public health in Africa, as well as on re-opening export markets for products such as groundnut.

Dare, an Agripreneur, explains the activities of the IITA youth in agribusiness to the visitors as other colleagues look on.
Dare, an Agripreneur, explains the activities of the IITA youth in agribusiness to the visitors as other colleagues look on.

I was also very impressed by the dynamic presentations and self-confidence of the young graduates in IITA’s Youth Agripreneur program. With unemployment of young Nigerian graduates as high as 60-70%,
this program aims to show that there is a future for young Africans in agriculture, that there is viable employment and an attractive career in catfish aquaculture, in soymilk production, yam sucker farms and cassava bread production.

Dr Sanginga, who is the father of this program and naturally very proud of its success, predicts that it can scale up and out, in Nigeria and other African countries —his vision is about a movement to give a future back to millions of African youth through agriculture and the value chains in the agri-food business. The program is just a start and has already attracted attention from IFAD, AfDB, and the Nigerian government. It is a good example of what the CGIAR can do when it focuses on youth—very timely with “gender and youth” identified as a key cross-cutting issue in the new CGIAR strategy.

At the BIP, the visitors listen to a researcher explain about the production of aflasafe and Nodumax.
At the BIP, the visitors listen to a researcher explain about the production of aflasafe and Nodumax.

Finally I met with the newly expanded NRM group led by Bernard Vanlauwe. The focus here is on helping restore the fertility of 7 million hectares of degraded lands, as per IITA’s 10-year strategy. Products like NoduMax, or a nutrient manager for cassava not unlike IRRI’s nutrient manager for rice, are intended to make this possible, as well as the groups participation in CGIAR Research programs such as the Integrated Systems for the Humid Tropics ,  Water, Land and Ecosystems, Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, Grain Legumes and Roots Tubers and Bananas .

Group photo with IITA Youth Agripreneurs.
Group photo with IITA Youth Agripreneurs.

At the end of the visit my hosts asked if I would like to see the soils Lab again… and it was a pleasure to be led around by Joseph Uponi, the same manager who showed me the lab in 2012, this time proudly demonstrating brand-new lab equipment, such as the Infrared Reflectance Spectroscope that can provide high through-put characterization of the chemical composition of soils. IITA’s lab now works closely with Keith Shepherd’s excellent Soil-Plant Spectral Diagnostics Lab at ICRAF, building soil libraries for West-Africa, complementing ICRAF’s work in East and Southern Africa. A real pleasure to see the soils lab back in great shape! It is incredibly encouraging to see a research institute rising to answer the challenge of nourishing Africa so quickly and so dynamically under difficult conditions. Visiting IITA in 2015 leaves me invigorated and energized; optimistic that the CGIAR Research Centers and their partners may have a future that can surpass the successes of the past—contributing to our core goals to overcome hunger, and achieve food and nutrition security in a climate-smart manner that leaves behind a healthy planet. Thanks to Dr Sanginga and his team at IITA for a great visit!

Agricultural scientists: Systems research offers solutions to tackling poverty, hunger, and environmental degradation

Agricultural scientists and researchers from over 30 countries met this week at IITA headquarters in Ibadan, Nigeria, for the International Conference on Integrated Systems for Sustainable Intensification in Smallholder Agriculture.

Conference speakers and exhibitors, representing the implementing partners of three systems research programs of the CGIAR Consortium presented strategies and results that respond directly to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) outlined by the United Nations, and have a marked impact on the lives and livelihoods of smallholder producers and consumers of developing countries.


DG Sanginga addresses participants at the Conference in IITA, Ibadan.
DG Sanginga addresses participants at the Conference in IITA, Ibadan.

The conference aimed to: (1) demonstrate and share experiences and evidence that show the effectiveness of Systems Approaches in agriculture research in contributing to livelihoods and natural resource management; (2) share methods, tools, and research approaches used in Systems Research; (3) explore opportunities for new partnerships in Systems Research for development; and (4) identify opportunities for cross-system learning, and methods to do this effectively.

The conference covered the following research themes: integrated systems improvement and sustainable intensification; sustainable intensification in practice; partnerships and institutional arrangements for innovation, scaling up, and impact; and foresight in systems research for development impact.

Among the CGIAR research managers who attended this multidisciplinary event were Dr Nteranya Sanginga, Director General of IITA; Dr Kwesi Atta-Krah, Director, CGIAR Research Program on Integrated Systems for the Humid Tropics (Humidtropics); Dr Frank Rijsberman, CEO of the CGIAR Consortium; and Dr Ann Tutwiler, Director General of Bioversity International.

Keynote speakers during the media briefing.
Keynote speakers during the media briefing.

Other key partners present at the meeting were Dr Yemi Akinbamijo, Executive Director, Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) who took part in the opening program on 4 March; Prof David W. Norman, Professor Emeritus, Kansas State University; Dr Bernard Hubert, President, Agropolis International; Dr Andy Hall, Agriculture Flagship, Commonwealth Scientific Industrial and Research Organization (CSIRO); Dr Dennis Garrity, UN Drylands Ambassador & Senior Fellow, ICRAF; Dr Linley Chiwona Karltun, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences; among many others.

According to Dr Atta-Krah of the CGIAR Research Program on Integrated Systems for the Humid Tropics (Humidtropics), “The conference offers a platform for sharing of experiences and research results in systems research for development, from different countries and regions of the world. It provides a reminder of the challenges facing global agriculture and food systems, and the solutions that integrated systems research offers as part of a global effort to tackle poverty, hunger and environmental degradation.”

The event featured 45 plenary and oral presentations, and over 50 poster presentations, representing one of the most important and stimulating international platforms for knowledge exchange on the latest scientific results, developments and experiences in the agricultural systems research for development sector.

Participants at the opening program of the Systems Conference.
Participants at the opening program of the Systems Conference.

The conference called upon the donor community, agricultural research institutions, partners in the wider research and development community, the private sector, as well as policy and decision-makers to work jointly and strengthen the use of systems approaches in agricultural research for development, to further advance the contribution of science to the international community’s commitment to end hunger completely by 2030.

The international meeting was organized by the IITA-led Humidtropics, in partnership with the CGIAR Research Program on Aquatic Agricultural Systems (AAS) and the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems (Drylands).