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

Picture of DG Sanginga.
DG Sanginga.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DG Sanginga visits new Southern Africa Hub Campus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Structural reforms underline IITA’s commitment to excellence

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

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

Picture of DG Sanginga
DG Sanginga

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DG tours Tanzania; shares new ambitions for IITA and agriculture in Africa

IITA Director General Nteranya Sanginga has just concluded a two-day visit to IITA’s Eastern Africa’s office in Tanzania where he met the Institute’s staff and shared his priority areas of focus for his second term as the head of the Institute.

Picture of IITA Director General Nteranya Sanginga
IITA Director General Nteranya Sanginga

He said he had identified three areas that he was passionate about which had grown in leaps and bounds in his first five-year tenure which ends in a few months.

These are strengthening IITA’s internal corporate services which are crucial to supporting and delivery of the science, the Feed Africa initiative with the Africa Development Bank (AfDB), and building on the success of the youth Agripreneurs program whose objective is to create jobs and income for young people in Africa through agribusiness.

“I have been thinking seriously about this in the last six months: What will I focus on in the next five years if I seek another term as DG? From my experience, a second term is usually very tricky and I wanted to make sure I have new ambitions that will take me out of bed excitedly every morning,” Sanginga said while addressing the staff at the hub.

“We are doing very well in our science; and we have great partnerships from the grassroots all the way to the top level. We have built donor confidence and our business incubation platform is up and running processing aflasafe and NoduMax and we are thinking of adding aeroponics and tissue culture. We now need to strengthen our internal corporate services – finance, HR, and IT. So my second term will focus more inwards to ensure more efficient services.

Feed Africa is a major initiative of the AfDB to transform agriculture in Africa and with it, the Bank was keen to work with CGIAR centers with IITA playing a key role, Sanginga said. “In this regard, we are having a major summit at Headquarters bringing together all the CGIAR centers working in Africa and major donors to kick off the initiative and discuss its implementation.”
He noted that the Agripreneurs program that IITA, under his leadership, started three years ago was already well established in five countries – DRC, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda – and getting a lot of support. For example, in Nigeria, the government was providing support to replicate the program across the country to more states. The AfDB supports the initiative and is keen to take it across the continent. Recently the University of Michigan had expressed interest to work with the group and conduct research on changing the mindset of the youth towards agriculture.

Sanginga also spent time talking to and mentoring the youth in Tanzania as well as visiting their processing center that had been constructed with support from the AfDB. He reminded them that agriculture is one of the sectors that had real potential to create employment and that IITA scientists and researchers were ready to share knowledge and the technologies they are developing.

“Believe in yourselves. Through agriculture and this initiative you can create your own jobs and even employ others.”

He also told the youth that IITA will be counting on them to encourage other youth to go into agribusiness. “We are receiving a lot of support from policy makers in different countries wanting to adopt the program. The AfDB is also keen to start investing in youth in agribusiness across 23 countries in Africa using the IITA model. So we will be counting on some of you to help in this initiative to help change the youth’s mindsets in agriculture in many countries.”

Sanginga was in the hub as part of efforts to keep the staff in the region updated with the latest developments and future plans and keep abreast of what is happening at the hub. He was well received by the team at the hub led by the Director for Eastern Africa, Victor Manyong.

DG Sanginga leads CGIAR delegates to AfDB 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.

Picture of DG Sanginga and AfDB President Adesina.
DG Sanginga and AfDB President Adesina.

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.

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).