IITA Benin hosts Center of Excellence for research on biotic stresses linked to climate change

9 May 2014

Board members with staff in IITA Benin.
Board members with staff in IITA Benin.

A center of excellence for research and training to link climate change with biodiversity and biotic stresses was launched this week in the IITA campus in the Republic of Benin.

This follows a major conference on Biotic stresses, climate change and agricultural production in Cotonou, Bénin, held on 5-7 May.

The Center, which comes under the auspices of the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD) has IITA, the National Institute of Agricultural Research of Bénin (INRAB), AfricaRice, Bioversity, the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD), and the University of Abomey Calavi (UAC) as partners but is also open to other national agricultural research systems in the West and Central African bloc.

The Center was inaugurated by the Republic of Benin’s Minister of Agriculture, Madame Fatouma Amadou Djibril; CORAF/WECARD Director General, Dr Ibet Outman Issa, and IITA Board of Trustees Chair, Prof Bruce Coulman.

The inauguration of the Center of Excellence aligns with IITA’s refreshed strategy which seeks to “establish the IITA Cotonou station as a biodiversity center and a leading research and training center providing sustainable solutions to crop biotic stresses linked with climate change in West Africa in partnership with CORAF/ WECARD, West African universities, CGIAR centers, and international agricultural research centers (IARCs) in the region.”

Already, IITA has taken over the rehabilitated forest of Drabo Gbo in the Republic of Benin as a field research station linked to the Cotonou biodiversity center.

IITA Board Chair, Dr Bruce Coulman explained that the need to establish a center of excellence is based on the fact that climate change is important and it would affect agricultural production and productivity and pest population, and so there was the need to develop strategies to mitigate this challenge.

“This facility will attract global attention to this very important topic,” he said.

With a great proportion of the agricultural production in West and Central Africa relying on rainfall, agricultural production in the region is being threatened.

Climate disturbances in the region usually generate extreme events such as droughts and floods, but even sudden dry spells during a normal rainy season could have a tremendous impact on productivity.

IITA Board Member Trine Hvoslef- Eide said that the establishment of the Center of Excellence was a wonderful opportunity for West and Central African farmers.

“This Center will help the region to be prepared for these new challenges, and more importantly, the Center will offer easy access to farmers in terms of information which they could use in addressing climate change,” she said.

Dr Robert Asiedu, IITA Director for Western Africa, said the establishment of the Center would help the region to develop and harmonize its efforts in tackling the menace from climate change.

“With this facility, we can underst and, predict and develop the necessary tools that will help us influence our destiny. If not, we will be helpless when the effects of climate change finally hit us,” he explained.

At the inauguration were members of the donor community, the Director General of AfricaRice, Dr Adama Traore; IITA Board Members, IITA Management team, and researchers from the national systems in the region.

For more information, please contact: Godwin Atser, g.atser@cgiar.org, Andrea Gros, a.gros@cgiar.org or Katherine Lopez, k.lopez@cgiar.org

About IITA www.iita.org

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) is one of the world’s leading research partners in finding solutions for hunger, malnutrition, and poverty. Its award-winning research for development (R4D) approach addresses the development needs of tropical countries. IITA works with partners to enhance crop quality and productivity, reduce producer and consumer risks, and generate wealth from agriculture. IITA is a non-profit organization founded in 1967 in Nigeria and governed by a Board of Trustees. IITA works on the following crops: cowpea, soybean, banana/plantain, yam, cassava, and maize. IITA is a member of CGIAR, a global agriculture research partnership for a food secure future.

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