IITA, East Africa countries pledge to collaborate on agriculture research to address common, regional challenges

8 December 2017

Key challenges to address jointly include fall armyworm, aflatoxin contamination, and capacity building

Picture of Peter Kulakow with visitors at Cassava Breeding Unit.
Peter Kulakow with visitors at Cassava Breeding Unit.

Heads of National Agricultural Research Systems from Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda have agreed to work together, and with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to jointly tackle emerging challenges facing the agricultural sector across their respective countries. This, they noted, will enable them to deliver better and faster results.

This was agreed at a side meeting during IITA’s recent 50th Anniversary celebrations held in Ibadan, Nigeria, which they had attended as guests of the Institute. They included Dr Eliud Kiplimo Kireger, Director General of the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO); Ms Nkuvililwa Simkanga and Dr Hussein Mansoor, Directors of Policy and Planning and of Research and Development, respectively, at Tanzania’s Ministry of Agriculture; and Dr Tushemerirwe Wilberforce, Director from Uganda’s National Agricultural Research Laboratories (NARL).

Dr Nteranya Sanginga, IITA DG noted this was a very good development and can make a big difference in efforts to transform the agriculture sector in East Africa. “Our coming together to discuss how to jointly address challenges is a very important milestone. We now need to take concrete measures to cement our collaboration and come up with an action plan from our deliberations,” he said.

The team identified several strategic areas that they can start working on together immediately. These included finding solutions to the fall armyworm which was moving across the continent and addressing aflatoxin contamination using aflasafe™.

Dr Hussein Mansour noted that there were many similar challenges that the three countries were grappling with such as the fall armyworm that were spreading to new areas every day causing a lot of damage, such as the fall armyworm, and which they can join forces to tackle.

He also pointed out that the regional partnership would play a key role in supporting the newly formed Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) to take shape. “We want support to make TARI a top-notch research institute and we will get rich lessons and experiences from KALRO, NARO, and IITA. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. From our tour of IITA we have already identified the support we need such as from the Bioscience Center and the Business Incubation Platform,” he said.

Ms Simkanga also welcomed closer partnership with IITA, NARL, and KALRO noting they all shared many goals including those on empowering youth in agribusiness. She said her government launched a national strategy for involving youth in agriculture in 2016 and therefore was one area to collaborate with IITA on since its Youth Agriprenuers Program had been in place for several years.

“For KALRO, we are ready to work with all of you. With our over 800 scientists and 200 of them having PhDs, we have a lot to offer to support regional research initiatives,” said Dr Kireger as he cited the example of KALRO support to the establishment of the Tea Industry for Rwanda, Uganda, and Malawi.

On the issues of aflatoxin, he noted KALRO was already ahead in the region as it already had a factory to produce aflasafe while Tanzania and Uganda were developing their strains and can provide valuable lessons.

“You can learn from our experiences and our mistakes. We also have a laboratory that can supply inoculants to the whole region,” he said.

IITA hub director for Eastern Africa Victor Manyong noted that IITA had received tremendous support from the three national agriculture research institutes. He was therefore happy with the decision to not only strengthen collaboration with IITA in each country but also collectively as a region.

Others present at the meeting were Regina Kapinga, Head of Advocacy and Resource Mobilization, Eveline Odiambo Head of Finance and Administration in the region, and Catherine Njuguna, Regional Corporate Communications Officer.

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