“It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” so goes a line from a famous song celebrating the Yuletide season, with a melody that just goes on and on in your head. And for us here at IITA, it is indeed a most wonderful time to celebrate!
You see, I feel that 2014 probably has been the most successful year in IITA’s recent history. In my report to IITA staff at our HQ in Ibadan, as well as to the Board of Trustees, 2014 marks the completion of Phase 1 of the implementation of our Refreshed Institutional Strategy, which started in 2012 and ending in 2020. Under this first phase, we have been able to successfully align our own research with the more general Consortium Research Programs (CRPs) of the CGIAR; and we have been able to mobilize more resources and source more funding for our R4D work.
In these past two years and culminating in 2014, we now have a more concerted research effort with our sister research centers in the CGIAR as well as more available resources for our research-for-development work. This, in turn, means better opportunities to help our target beneficiaries – the resource-poor farmers – get out of poverty.
To put things in context, our Vision of Success as outlined in our strategy is two-pronged: raise more than 11 million Africans out of poverty; and redirect 7.5 million hectares of degraded land into sustainable and productive use. We intend to achieve this in three phases. And this year we pencil off Phase 1.
The Holiday season is known to be the time for the young and the young at heart. This year also marks another watershed in our efforts to bring youths back in the arms of agriculture, particularly through our IITA Youth in Agribusiness (IYA), aka Agripreneurs, program. We have expanded this program to the Congo, Burundi and Tanzania, while IITA-Zambia has also initiated contacts with various youth groups and private and public sector partners in the country to kick-off their own version of IYA. From all of these, we learned that in order to change the current mindset of the youth about agriculture – which is not very favourable at the moment – we need to connect IYA to excellent sources of related technology and knowledge, as well as provide a forum for counselling and providing technical advice to motivate them to engage in agriculture.
Internally, staff morale at IITA is on an all-time high. Staff are more motivated now more than ever to contribute to the mission and vision of the institute. We were able to do this by giving staff opportunities to further their skills through various training and training grants. We have also continued to recognize outstanding people who have shown exceptional initiative and performance of their work. After all, its people are the institute’s greatest and most important asset.
In all, I am happy to say that we are now a “reengineered” institute, where research funds continue to grow, infrastructure are upgraded, morale is high, and partnerships flourish. As we move into 2015 and into the second phase of our strategy implementation, I encourage everyone to build upon these successes and continue to strive towards a better future for our institute but more so for the people that we serve. Indeed, it is the most wonderful time of the year!
And as we go about celebrating this festive season, I enjoin everyone to not forget and say a little prayer for those who have less. We are, after all, here because of and for them.
So from our family to yours, here’s wishing you the best of the Holiday Season and glad tidings for the coming New Year. So you next time!