Minister lauds IITA’s research and capacity building of future researchers efforts in Tanzania and pledges support

2 December 2021

Tanzania’s Agriculture Minister, Hon. Prof Adolph Mkenda, has expressed his appreciation for the scientific endeavors of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), which have had a significant impact in finding sustainable solutions to the challenges facing the country’s agriculture sector and assured the institute of his government’s support.

Tanzania’s Agriculture Minister, Hon. Prof Adolph Mkenda addressing IITA staff during the visit. Looking on is Leena Tripathi, IITA-EA Director.

The Minister particularly commended IITA’s work on cassava and banana, which led to the release of new, improved high-yielding, disease-resistant varieties. He praised the institute’s efforts to build the capacity of researchers in the country, train students, and attract young people to agriculture through the IITA Youth Agripreneurs program to address youth unemployment.

The minister was on his first official visit to the IITA offices in Dar es Salaam on his way to a meeting of stakeholders in the cassava starch industry to discuss how to support cassava commercialization in the country. The meeting was organized by the Ministry of Agriculture organized in partnership with IITA through the Building an Economically Sustainable Seed System for Cassava in Tanzania (Best Cassava) on 30 November.

During the visit, the honorable minister was received by the IITA’s Director for Eastern Africa, Dr Leena Tripathi, who made a presentation on the institute’s activities in the country and led the minister on a tour of the research facilities, including the laboratories. The minister also met and addressed all the institute’s staff at the end of the tour.

Tanzania’s Agriculture Minister, Hon. Prof Adolph Mkenda listening to Rudolph Shirima, a Research Associate and his team on research on cassava diseases in the molecular laboratory.

Leena Tripathi thanked the Minister for visiting the institute and government support over the years that had seen Tanzania become the institute’s headquarters for Eastern Africa.

During her presentation to the Minister, Tripathi shared some of the Institute’s successes in Tanzania. These included the release of thirty improved high-yielding cassava varieties and four first-ever banana hybrids from collaboration with the Tanzania Agriculture Research Institute (TARI).

Other successes were supporting over 90 Tanzania nationals to study at MSc and PhD levels to build their research capacity and engaging over 1,000 youth in agriculture to create employment for themselves and others.

The Minister lauded these successes, which he said were well in line with the government aspirations. He said the government recognized the importance of research in finding solutions to the challenges facing the agriculture sector. Towards this end, he said, the government had,

in its recent budget, doubled the funding to TARI and hoped to increase the funding over the years.

Another priority for the government, the Minister said, was to build human capacity in science, technology, and medicine. He congratulated IITA for supporting so many students from Tanzania to pursue higher education in universities both in and out of the country and host them at IITA for on-the-job practical training. He urged IITA to keep this up and support even more students and also support government efforts to strengthen the extension system.

“In all your projects, work with the government extension workers so you can build their capacities, and they will continue sharing the knowledge with farmers once the projects are finished,” he urged.

He also said that the government was keen to learn best practices to attract youth to agriculture as the unemployment rates in the country are high and agriculture holds great potential to create income for youth.

Dr Victor Manyong, Emeritus Director for IITA, who was also part of the reception team, explained that through African Development Bank (AfDB) support, IITA was running a program to attract youth to agriculture, providing both technical know-how for agriculture production and processing, and linking them with banks for loans. The program ensured that there was gender parity and that an equal number of men and women participate.

The Minister also expressed interest in the soil test kits assembled at the IITA soil laboratory under Dr Frederick Baijukya, which were more affordable and easier to carry around and use by the agriculture extension officers. He said the government had been importing kits, but it was better to buy from an institute in the country like IITA.

Hon Prof Adolf Mkenda concluded by requesting a two-day conference next year with the research team at IITA to understand the range of IITA research work in the country and discuss ways to strengthen collaboration for scaling the work to impact more farmers.

In the visit, the Minister was accompanied by Nyasebwa Chimagu, the Director for Crop Development and Upendo Mndeme, Senior Agricultural Officer and Cassava Focal Person, both from the Ministry of Agriculture.