IITA to collaborate with other organizations on wheat production

3 December 2021

His Excellency John Donnelly, the Australian High Commissioner to Nigeria, proposed an area of collaboration with the Institute on a recent visit to IITA headquarters. Commissioner Donnelly was accompanied by his spouse, Madame Sunita Kofnala, and Political and Economic Officer Tosin Gbolasere.

Representing IITA Director General Nteranya Sanginga, Deputy Director General for Corporate Services Hilde Koper welcomed the team warmly and introduced them to IITA’s technologies and activities.

IITA management team with the Commissioner Australian High and his team.

Following the introduction, Legume Geneticist and Breeder Christian Fatokun, on behalf of the  West African Hub Director Michael Abberton, spoke about IITA Research-for-Development activities in the West Africa hub. He highlighted IITA’s work on six mandate crops, cutting across all research areas and IITA’s works with different partners in each country and mainstreaming women and youth into its programs. “Through our plant health laboratory, we also support the Nigerian government to ensure that seeds imported into the country meet international plant quarantine standards,” he said.

Head of Project Development and Administration Unit (PDAU) Kayode Awobajo spoke on the support of the Australian Government to IITA over the years. He highlighted the many collaborations between IITA and the Australian government, emphasizing the immense support received from the Australian government between 2011 and 2018. “We look forward to furthering collaboration after this visit,” he said.

YEASA Coordinator Oluyemi Adunoye explained the activities of IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA). She shared how the DG established IYA to create job opportunities for youth in agriculture. IYA  achieves this through training programs to help the youth become employable and successfully start-up agribusiness enterprises. “IYA has expanded to 10 countries and reached out to over twenty thousand since inception,” she said.

The Australian High Commissioner (third from left) discussing collaboration opportunities with the IITA management team (right).

IITA Forest Center Manager Adewale Awoyemi spoke on the activities of the IITA Forest. He mentioned that IITA fully supports natural resources management. Hence it dedicated about 35% of its land to forest conservation. He added that IITA has a globally recognized site for bird conservation, botanical garden, and Tree Heritage Park, where native trees are propagated. “Through funding from the Direct Aid Program of the Australian embassy, we upgraded our nursery so that we could propagate native trees and upgraded our website to produce a step-by-step manual of propagation for native trees. We also built the first Forest School for students and family groups to learn about the forest environment,” he said.

After the presentations, Commissioner Donnelly explained that the purpose of his visit has to do with his Institute’s interest in exploring wheat production with IITA. Although wheat is not part of IITA mandate crops, the Australian Commission is proposing collaboration in that area should IITA, through agricultural cooperation, be willing to add wheat to its mandate crops.

Fatokun and Koper responded that since IITA is now a part of One CGIAR, the Institute can work with ICARDA—a sister Institution in the One CGIAR working on wheat, to collaborate on the project. Madame Kofnala also shared her interest in IITA’s forest activities.