New Year messages from Management

Nteranya Sanginga

_DSC0422aThank you all for your hard work and dedication in 2015. Over the past four years we have worked together as a team and this approach will continue to be the major factor in our continued progress and success. Challenges lie ahead as always but as we embrace change and adapt, we have a bright future ahead.

As we continue in our strength of delivering improved knowledge and technologies through partnerships to the end users, we will be evaluated on how people’s lives are being improved and we must be able to provide the clear evidence that we are achieving impact at scale. Demonstrating this impact by working with private and public partners will determine our future. Being successful in both these areas is a priority and it is critical that the organizational structure of IITA supports our ability to achieve both of these major objectives.

One important area that IITA will focus on in 2016 is helping the African Development Bank in achieving its vision for Africa by modernizing agriculture.

African leaders had met at a conference, Feeding Africa – An Action Plan for African Agricultural Transformation, in October 2015 in Dakar, Senegal, to kick-start agriculture as an engine of growth.

A roadmap was developed that involves a two-pronged approach based on raising food productivity and reorganizing markets to create greater incentives and better trade conditions.

The creation of the Business Incubation Platform (BIP), the newly added cassava and soybean processing centers, and the Youth Agripreneurs at IITA have all made a significant contribution to Nigeria’s quest to diversify its economy by accelerating the agricultural development sector. Many of these IITA innovations are being replicated and expanded in countries like DRC, Tanzania, and Zambia.

I believe my role in the future of IITA will be more in the area of achieving impact at scale by working with private and public partners and especially the youth. I am working to help IITA become the organization that all the other organizations working to improve agriculture in Africa want to partner with.

Let’s work together on this. I wish all staff the best for 2016.

Kenton Dashiell

DashiellFirst, I want thank you all for your contributions to the progress of building strong partnerships and increasing our capacity development activities last year. As we enter 2016, let’s build on our achievements, especially now that the Business Incubation Platform is fully operational and getting increasing demands for Aflasafe, Nodumax, and breeders seeds of all our major crops.

Also, the success and expansion of our IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA) model is helping to raise IITA’s profile and visibility throughout Africa.  With your strong dedication to work and commitment to improving agriculture we will continue to establish new partnerships with all levels of government and with the private sector in pursuance of IITA’s goals. I wish everyone a fruitful year ahead.

Ylva Hillbur

_DSC0825I want to express my sincere gratitude for the contribution you have all made in 2015 to the continuing achievements of IITA. The teamwork of staff at all levels and across all units has meant that IITA has continued to succeed in a time of financial problems for CGIAR.

The quality of our science remains the bedrock on which this success is based and a major foundation of the impact of IITA on the lives of the people of Africa. I am sure that your efforts will continue just as strongly in 2016. I wish you all a happy new year.

Kwame Akuffo-Akoto

_DSC0401aAs we enter the new year, I would like to commend you all for your hard work and dedication throughout 2015 – we have worked well together to keep IITA strong and healthy despite challenges and difficulties. We have coped with the challenges and they have only served to make us stronger and more resilient. We are confident that the coming year will bring us opportunities to work harder and more efficiently towards achieving success, both in our personal lives, and towards the mission of IITA.

Wishing you and your families peace, prosperity, and happiness and all the best for 2016. Happy New Year! Bonne Année!

Shalewa Sholola

shololaIt’s that period again when we take stock of our accomplishments and challenges during the year. The year 2015, no doubt, is full of excitement – successes and failures; positive and negative occurrences; drawbacks and breakthroughs, etc.  The year has not been all rosy globally, and for donor-dependent institutions like ours, the financial crisis proved very turbulent.

Many of our sister CGIAR centers felt the impact of the wave occasioned by the duo budget cuts during 2015. However, IITA weathered the storm, looking even stronger as evidenced by IITA’s current top rank among other CGIAR centers in terms of funding; and also probably one of the few Centers managing a pay raise in the ongoing financial crisis. This was because we held together, like the Finance Directorate slogan says – Together we are stronger!

My humble message to you all is of gratitude to all that made it happen. I would like to appreciate all IITA staff members for your continued hard work and strong belief in what you do to deliver on IITA’s mission and strategy. My deep appreciation goes to your spouses, our partners, and other stakeholders for their contributions and unalloyed support to IITA.

I take this opportunity to wish you all a healthy, prosperous, and successful 2016. We look forward with hope for greater accomplishments in 2016.

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.

IITA celebrates with AfDB President on conferment of honorary doctorate degrees

The Director General of IITA, Nteranya Sanginga and the IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA) joined other well-wishers to celebrate with Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), the conferment of honorary doctorate degrees of science award (D.Sc., honoris causa) by the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile-Ife, Osun State and Adekunle Ajasin University Akungba (AAUA) in Ondo State on12 and 19 December, respectively.

Dr Akinwumi Adesina receiving his cap and gown during the conferment ceremony.
Dr Akinwumi Adesina receiving his cap and gown during the conferment ceremony.

OAU recognized Adesina’s contribution to the development of science and research in Africa. Adesina is a former researcher at IITA, where he worked from 1995 to 1998.

Other people who were honored by the institution were the Emir of Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar, who became the 8th Chancellor of the University; Prof Jacob Kehinde Olupona, Director, African and African-American Studies at Harvard University who bagged the honorary doctorate award of Letters (D.Litt.); and a successful lawyer, Barrister of Law and Solicitor of the Federal Supreme Court of Nigeria, Chief Alex Duduyemi, who was also awarded a Doctor of Business Management (DBM).

Responding on behalf of the awardees, Adesina thanked the University for building the foundation of what he has become in life. Adesina is an alumnus of the University, graduating from the Department of Agricultural Economics with first class honors in 1981. Reminiscing about his journey in life so far, Adesina said the core values of education and character being impacted by the University is world class, and cannot be compared to any other University in the world.

Adesina urged the 2015 graduating PhD students of the university to be worthy of character and not forget the values imparted to them. He stressed the need for them to preserve their integrity and that of the institution at all times and urged them to contribute to society’s development.

“Go out, compete, and win. Failure is not an option. We have faith in you, so rise up, and shine. In the course of doing this, do not forget those who helped you along the way especially your parents and teachers. Their reward should no longer be in heaven”, he said.

Also at the ceremony, the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission, Julius Okojie, who represented President Muhammadu Buhari, congratulated the awardees and the graduating students.

He said the government has mapped out strategies to review agriculture policies that will provide employment for youth in the agricultural sector. He said that with the dwindling price of crude oil, agriculture should become the backbone of the economy. He added that the development of farm implements that will make agriculture attractive to youth and also help farmers.

The IITA Youth Agripreneurs made use of the opportunity to showcase their products at an exhibition stand during the event.

Meanwhile, speaking at the AAUA convocation during the institution’s 6th convocation ceremony, the Governor of Ondo State, Olusegun Mimiko, stressed the need for partners to invest more in education to enhance research and productivity in tertiary institutions. He commended the University for being recognized as the best state university in Nigeria.

Presenting the graduating students to the governing council of the university, Vice Chancellor Igbekele Ajibefun urged the students to remain good ambassadors. He stressed that the university has resolved to continue to produce globally competitive, technology savvy, entrepreneurship-driven, and socially responsible graduates who are problem solvers in a resource-challenged world.

He also urged the awardees to help ensure that the society becomes a better place for younger generations.

Other awardees include Oba Fredrick Obateru Akinruntan, the paramount ruler of Ugbo Kingdom in Ondo State who was honored with the Doctor of Letters and Chief Bisi Ogunjobi, the former AfDB vice president who was also honored with a Doctor of Science.

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.

A look at IITA’s gender journey

Although IITA has made great progress in integrating gender in its research there is still a lot that needs to be done to transform the Institute to a lead center in gender research and development outcomes. This was said by Dr Amare Tegbaru, IITA’s Gender Specialist, Unit Head and Humidtropics Gender Research Coordinator, during a seminar presentation entitled Engaging in IITA Gender Research aiming at enhancing equity and social inclusion in African Agriculture and Rural Development, held at IITA- Tanzania on 18 June 2015.

“When I joined IITA, gender was not a priority. We did not have any concerted efforts to integrate gender into our Research for Development.  There was some gender research going on but it was mainly donor-driven and based on individual interpretations of what that meant,” Dr Tegbaru said. “It did lead to some successful outcomes and outputs which were strengthened and built upon by the CRPs (CGIAR Research Programs) which stressed gender research.”

“Currently, Dr Tegbaru said, “IITA’s is ensuring that all its research programs are gendered so that all technologies generated are able to benefit women and other vulnerable people. The Institute also has a gender policy in place and is emphasizing training on gender mainstreaming in addition to hiring more gender experts.”

Why gender research?

“Gender is not just about numbers. It’s also about voices and access to assets and improvement in decision-making. IITA’s vision to reduce hunger and poverty and malnutrition through increasing the yield of important staples can happen only when gender concerns are taken seriously. Our quest to enhance efficiencies and improve nutrition in the continent will not happen if we do not understand the context. We also need to know how our efforts will affect women and how they will lead to gender equity between men and women and other marginalized groups,” he said.

Dr Tegbaru speaking during the seminar.
Dr Tegbaru speaking during the seminar.

Dr Tegbaru gave examples of some of the initiatives he had been involved in at the Institute that had integrated gender into their research agenda for greater impact. These included developing a gender strategy for the Humidtropics to address gender issues in systems thinking. “The strategy is distinct in that it is guided by the social science definition of gender as one among other  systems of classification, such as those based on age, generation, kinship, race, ethnicity, religion, and social class. It emphasizes social inclusiveness of marginalized and minority ethnic groups and goes beyond gender responsive/adoptive research approach to a transformative research approach that contributes to change in power relations and the empowerment of women.”

Addressing Gender norms constraints

According to Dr Tegbaru, innovations in agriculture and Natural Resource Management (NRM) are constrained by existing gender norms which legitimize gender inequality in the control over and use of productive assets and resources. This holds back development.

On the other hand, more gender-equitable control over and use of resources leads to higher levels of poverty reduction, food security, nutrition, and sustainable resource use.

He gave examples of the Making agricultural innovations work for smallholder farmers affected by HIV and AIDS, in short, the MIRACLE project. This was implemented in Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia, and sought to address the immediate health and nutritional needs of people living with HIV and AIDS. But in the end, the women who were marginalized and excluded owing to their HIV/status rose up in the community to become change agents and some were even elected as community leaders.

“The project and its innovation platform partners contributed to more transformational changes in the form of a reduction of the stigma and improvements in social inclusion. We are now trying to understand how the project transcended from addressing the immediate health and nutritional security needs and unlocked the hidden and suppressed potential of women. “Backed by measurable evidence we are working to produce the stories of these women. They had become change agents and innovative champions serving their communities as lead farmers, elected community leaders, and some of them in the Training of Trainers on post-harvest processing and value addition,” Dr Tegbaru said. In conclusion he said there was still a lot of work ahead to be done to consolidate these gains and strengthen gender research at IITA. This in turn would ensure there
was a sustained analytical capacity
that could effectively translate IITA’s science-based outcomes of change not only in terms of income and improved nutrition but also in enabling the empowerment of women and other marginalized groups in decision-making and change in social and power relations.

Nestlé VP: IITA is a lighthouse for Africa and many other emerging economies

An elated Anne Roulin, Nestlé Vice President: Nutrition, Health & Wellness & Sustainability, has commended Dr Nteranya Sanginga, Director General of IITA, for his outstanding presentation during the conference Planting Seeds for the Future of Food
in Switzerland on 1-4 June. Dr Sanginga’s presentation to more than 150 participants from NGOs, the business world, and academia described IITA’s work, success stories, and model for eradicating youth unemployment in Africa.

Anne’s congratulatory message to Dr Sanginga read as follows: “After listening to so many ‘gloom and doom’ messages at other conferences, I was really encouraged to see that there is a whole series of potential technological solutions that can produce sustainable and nutritious foods in the future, even though the political and social issues are immense. The work you are doing at IITA is truly a lighthouse, not only for Africa but also for many other emerging economies. Hearing about the successes of your Agripreneurs brought tears of joy to my eyes and real hope for the future. Keep up the great work!”

Also, last month Dr Sanginga was a panelist at the 50th Annual Meeting organized by the African Development Bank, 26-29 May in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, to discuss agribusiness potentials. He spoke extensively about how IITA continues to link and help young people to earn a decent living from the agricultural value chains. More information about the events are available here:  article and video.

Healthy soils, healthy plants, healthy planet

IITA organized a talk on 29 May at its Eastern Africa hub in Dar es Salaam on healthy soils, healthy plants, healthy planet, for grade 6 and 7 students from nearby schools to mark two important events, the  International Fascination of Plants Day and International Year of Soils (IYS2015).

An IITA staff explains about IITA’s work with African food crops.
An IITA staff explains about IITA’s work with African food crops.

Fascination of Plants Day was celebrated 18 May but events were held throughout the month. The goal is to get as many people as possible around the world to be fascinated by plants and enthusiastic about the importance of plant science for agriculture, in sustainably producing food, as well as for horticulture, forestry, and all of the non-food products such as paper, timber, chemicals, energy, and pharmaceuticals. The IITA-Eastern Africa hub celebrated the event in 2013 by inviting students from nearby schools to tour the facility and learn about IITA’s research on plants/crops.

Meanwhile, the 68th UN General Assembly declared 2015 the International Year of Soils (IYS2015) to increase awareness and understanding of the importance of the soil for food security and essential ecosystem functions.

The talk, given by Dr Frederick Baijukya, IITA agronomist and National Coordinator for the N2Africa project in Tanzania, focused on the links among good soils, healthy plants, and a healthy planet. The students later toured the facility and interacted with various IITA researchers and got a better understanding of some of the ongoing research work at IITA.

The event not only created awareness among the students on the importance of soils and issues around soils, plants, and food security but inspired and encouraged them to pursue courses in science.

WASHC-IITA educates country-level soil health consortia members on ISFM data management and analyses

The West Africa Soil Health Consortia (WASHC) project successfully conducted a training workshop in Ibadan 25-29 May for the five Country-level Soil Health Consortia (CSHC) established in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria. Stakeholders included representatives from other IITA projects, Africa RISING, University of Ibadan, Federal University of  Agriculture Abeokuta, and Institute of Agricultural Research and Training, Ibadan. There were 28 participants from 16 organizations across West Africa, with some of the resource persons coming from USA and Kenya. The objective of the workshop was to contribute to better recommendations on integrated soil fertility management (ISFM) for smallholder farmers through capacity building in ISFM data synthesis and information management.

Dr Jeroen Huising addressing the participants.
Dr Jeroen Huising addressing the participants.

In his welcome address, the project Leader, Dr Jeroen Huising, pointed out that the training workshop was very important and of urgent necessity for the CSHC to fulfill their function of being a repository of ISFM data and information. It was also needed to broaden agronomic data and information management across IITA and to improve data sharing across different projects both within and outside IITA. “We need to discuss opportunities to share data and knowledge better: we spend a lot of time collecting data but make little or no effort to ensure its use for the longer term. We need to improve this,” Dr Huising emphasized.

A group picture of the workshop participants.
A group picture of the workshop participants.

The 5-day training workshop focused on data management, presentation and review of legacy data collected in each CSHC; understanding of the conceptual framework for ISFM data analyses and recommendations; use of metadata data standards for ISFM trials and legacy data; presentation of different agronomic protocols and the review of different data collection templates; ISFM trials data analyses using R studio; use of aWhere for effective management, analyses,
and visualization of ISFM trials data;
and the use of Dev aWhere platform. Also discussed were best practices in data management and data quality; capacity development in MS Excel – Excel spreadsheet requirements for use on aWhere platform; challenges to data harmonization; and how to leverage weather data for ISFM data analysis.

Jeroen Huising, Martin Mueller, Samuel Mesele, Martin Macharia (CABI, OFRA data manager), Dries Roobroeck, Hannah Reed, and Courtney Cohen facilitated the sessions. At the end of the training, Dr Huising presented certificates of attendance to the participants.

AfricaYam project can achieve more impact on farmers in sub-region, DG of CRI tells partners

During the inauguration of the new AfricaYam project, Dr Victor Agyeman, Director General of Crops Research Institute (CRI), Ghana, affirmed that the project could achieve more impact on farmers in the subregion.

Participants at the inaugural workshop in Ghana.
Participants at the inaugural workshop in Ghana.

“AfricaYam is sure to succeed,” he said, “because it involves a community of people from Anglophone and Francophone countries and uses agroforestry to tackle the effects of environmental degradation faced by farmers as a result of climate change.” He assured participants of his support in implementing recommendations on the community of practice when developed by the project.

Dr Robert Asiedu, IITA Director, Research for Development  (West Africa), led a team of IITA representatives to the inauguration at Mensvic Hotel, Accra, Ghana, 26–29 May. The meeting’s objectives were to establish and strengthen links among the project team, review the work done so far, and discuss the project targets and activities in detail especially for the first year. The meeting also featured a training for accountants from partner NARS on financial management and IITA’s reporting procedures.

The AfricaYam project aims at enhancing the breeding of species of white yam (Dioscorea rotundata) and water yam (D. alata) for increased productivity in West Africa, specifically in Nigeria, Ghana, Bénin, and Côte d’Ivoire. It also aims to reduce production costs and adverse environmental impacts by developing and deploying end-user preferred varieties with high yield, greater resistance to pests and diseases, as well as improved quality. This will benefit diverse stakeholders primarily yam farmers, consumers, processors, and transporters.

AfricaYam is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation over a five-year period and led by Dr David De Koeyer of IITA. The project is also collaborating with various research institutes in France, Japan, United Kingdom, and USA to increase results.

(L-R): Drs Jim Lorenzen (Gates Foundation), Glenn Bryan (JHI), David De Koeyer, Lava Kumar, and Robert Asiedu (IITA).
(L-R): Drs Jim Lorenzen (Gates Foundation), Glenn Bryan (JHI), David De Koeyer, Lava Kumar, and Robert Asiedu (IITA).

The project activities are grouped into four main components:

Strengthening capacity for yam breeding

Tools and methods to raise efficiency of yam breeding

Data management

Breeding and regional testing of promising breeder lines

Over the next five years of implementation, the following outcomes are expected from the project: active yam breeding programs in the target countries; improved efficiency of yam breeding programs through the use of faster and more precise tools and methods; and breeding methods used in national and international yam breeding programs in West Africa for sustainable development of new varieties that combine high and stable yield with good tuber qualities.

‘AgKnowledge Innovation’ Process Share Fair: Better ways to share and learn – Better ways to work!

IITA Head of Communication Andrea Gros (center) in a group discussion on participatory video.
IITA Head of Communication Andrea Gros (center) in a group discussion on participatory video.

On 25 and 26 May, CGIAR centers and other organizations working in agriculture and rural development convened a Share Fair at the International Livestock Research Institute campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The event was driven by the desire to make sure that agricultural research and innovations would have more impact; by recognizing and paying attention to the power of good processes that attend to people, partnerships, and participation.

Humidtropics social scientist Marc Schut (right) talk about innovation platforms.
Humidtropics social scientist Marc Schut (right) talk about innovation platforms.

The insights and connections helped the participants and the organizations they work for to cultivate much stronger capabilities for the design and delivery of truly effective process improvements that lead to applied innovation, social learning, and value for money. These improvements should help CGIAR and partner organizations to tackle tough issues through collective actions and collaborate across teams. See the full story here.