KIGALI, Rwanda (PAMACC News) - Key stakeholders in Africa’s agricultural sector today identified partnerships for sustainable agricultural technology delivery as a critical factor in Africa’s quest to feed Africa.
This came out strongly at a breakfast session that heralded the presidential summit of the 2018 African Agricultural Revolution Forum (AGRF) which ended today in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital city.
Organised by the ClearingHouse of the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT), an initiative of the African Development Bank’s Feed Africa Strategy that aims to achieve major agricultural transformation in Africa, the session had in attendance, African Agriculture Ministers, Scientists, representatives of multilateral development banks, donor partners and the private sector.
Mpoko Bokanga, Head of the TAAT ClearingHouse, in his opening statements traced the programme’s history to the October 2015 Dakar High Level Conference on Africa Agricultural Transformation Agenda which led to the adoption of 4 goals and 18 action points to transform African agriculture.
With a focused approach on integrated development of agricultural value chains, Dr. Bokanga highlighted the main objective of TAAT which is to “take proven agricultural technologies to scale in a commercially sustainable fashion through the establishment of a mechanism to facilitate partnerships.”
“These partnerships will not only provide access to expertise required to design, implement and monitor the progress of crop, animal and aquaculture, they will also contribute to ending extreme poverty by eliminating hunger and malnutrition; and making Africa a net exporter of agricultural commodities,” Dr. Bokanga said.
Innovative approach in partnerships
TAAT, according to Dr. Bokanga, isn’t an addition to Africa’s long list of agricultural initiatives but an innovative programme that serves as a clearing house for sustainable agricultural technology delivery.
Through its components, the programme will promote an enabling environment for technology adoption; establish a regional technology delivery infrastructure to accelerate delivery; and raise Africa’s agricultural productivity by deploying proven agricultural technologies at the agro-ecological and country levels in strengthened agricultural value chains.
The Togolese Minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Ouro-Koura Agadazi was full of praises for the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) for this well thought-out programme, which according to him, “carries the prospects of transforming Africa’s agricultural landscape.”
“Togo has benefitted from several of IITA path-breaking agricultural solutions and it is our hope that TAAT will not be any different,” Agadazi added.
Hon Joseph Mwanamvekha, Malawian Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, commended the partnership between IITA as the executing agency and the over 10 research institutes and centres driving the implement of the TAAT programme.
Also underscoring the imperatives of partnerships for sustainable agricultural technology at the breakfast session were representatives of International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and the IITA.
Technologies for Africa
Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) is a knowledge and innovation-based response to the recognized need to scaling up proven technologies across Africa.
Already being implemented in 31 low income Regional Member Countries of the AfDB, TAAT supports AfDB’s Feed Africa Strategy for the continent to eliminate the current massive importation of food and transform its economies by targeting agriculture as a major source of economic diversification and wealth, as well as a powerful engine for job creation.
The initiative will implement 655 carefully considered actions that should result in almost 513 million tons of additional food production and lift nearly 250 million Africans out of poverty by 2025.
KIGALI, Rwanda (PAMACC News) - For its creative work in generating solutions on and off the farm, innovative solutions that have improved the lives of millions in the face of climate change, and rampaging crop pests and disease, the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has emerged winner of the 2018 African Food Prize.
IITA is the first institution to receive the distinguished Africa Food Prize as announced today at the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Kigali, Rwanda.
The independent Africa Food Prize Committee, chaired by H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria, selected IITA for its deep commitment over many decades to producing a steady stream of innovations that have boosted the nutrition and incomes of millions of people across Africa.
In recent years, that work also has included a critical focus on connecting crop science to creating employment for Africa’s youth, and ensuring African farmers can adapt to the stress of climate change and the growing threat for an array of crop pests and plant diseases.
“IITA stood out to us for its steadfast and inspiring commitment to a research agenda that aligns with both our African traditions as well as the evolving needs of African farmers and consumers for the latest advances food production,” said Obasanjo.
“From the cassava we’re still eating today, to the valuable and nutritious soybeans we now grow in our fields, to maize varieties that can withstand drought and deadly toxins—our diets and our agriculture businesses would be much poorer today without IITA’s leadership, and its willingness to forge powerful bonds with African farmers and African communities.”
Speaking as he received the Prize on behalf of his institution, Dr. Nteranya Sanginga, IITA’s Director General, stated his belief that a great deal of IITA’s success rests on its ability to develop relationships and collaborations that allow the fruits of its research to be scaled up and made available to millions of farmers.
“I’m extremely honoured to be receiving this prize on behalf of IITA and proud to be part of a group of researchers dedicated to building lasting and relevant solutions for the continent,” said Sanginga.
“But it would be remiss of me if I didn’t acknowledge the important role of our various partners, from other research centers to governments to the private sector, without whom our research might never have seen the light of day.”
Responding to today’s realities
In addition to its research work, the Africa Food Prize selection committee also cited the institute’s role in moving from being a developer to becoming the producer and distributer of Aflasafe—a product that can remove 80 to 99 percent of a deadly, cancer-causing fungus called aflatoxin that contaminates maize and groundnuts.
In order to prove there was a market for the product, IITA established a “Business Incubation Platform (BIP)” and manufactured and sold Aflasafe itself. The product was a hit with farmers, who found the savings generated by Aflasafe were many times more than the product cost. IITA eventually handed off production to a private sector partner and there are now manufacturing plants for Aflasafe in Nigeria and Kenya.
Congratulating IITA on this recognition, Svein Tore Holsether, President and Chief Executive Officer of Yara International, noted that “since its inception in 2005, the Yara Prize—now the Africa Food Prize— has honoured people and organizations who are strong voices in the African agriculture sector. Now, African agriculture is at a defining moment.”
“To achieve real transformation we need to mobilize across sectors, and research organizations like IITA will play a crucial role, providing valuable science, vital in making sure we can produce enough food, which is also nutritious and environmentally friendly,” Holsether, added.
IITA was also praised for understanding and acting on the potential of agriculture to become a source of employment for young people on a continent that is grappling with a significant youth employment challenge. Under Dr. Sanginga’s leadership, IITA began a Youth Agripreneurs Program in 2012 to help young Africans create profitable agribusinesses.
The program has since been adopted by the African Development Bank as a model for its ENABLE Youth initiative. AfDB has tapped IITA to lead the efforts, which has ambitions to reach 800,000 young people in at least 20 African countries.
A model of superb African leadership and management
As the first African Director General to lead the organization, Dr. Sanginga was recognized by the Prize committee as a powerful force behind many of the organization’s impressive achievements--and for its imaginative new strategic direction that has taken it into areas like artificial intelligence and business development.
He also was praised for decisively extending IITA’s reach across the continent. When he was appointed in 2012, IITA’s physical presence in Africa was limited to its headquarters in Nigeria.
Today, it has 18 country offices and regional hubs in East, Central and Southern Africa—each with its own state of the art research facilities and stations.
“We want African governments and institutions to feel the presence of IITA and know that we are invested in the long-term future of the continent,” said Sanginga.
“For me, it was important to have more tangible connections with the communities we are serving and while I am a big fan of virtual collaborations, Africans still place a lot of value in face to face exchanges.”
In addition to Dr. Sanginga, also recognised by the committee were hundreds high-performing experts that IITA has recruited, trained and developed over the years, many of them going on to become pre-eminent leaders on the continent and champions for agriculture.
They include: Dr. Akin Adesina, President of the African Development Bank; Dr. Kanayo Nwanze, former Head of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and 2016 winner of the Africa Food Prize, as well as Dr. Agnes Kalibata, President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
KIGALI, Rwanda (PAMACC News) - Farmers across Africa are reeling under huge losses linked to the devastation by an invasive specie called Fall armyworm, also known as Spodoptera frugiperda.
With origins in Eastern, and Central North America and in South America, the caterpillar has since 2016, found its way into 44 African countries, causing significant damage to maize crops with great potential for further spread and economic damage
In sub-Saharan Africa, fall armyworm has instigated heavy losses to staple cereals, especially maize and sorghum, affecting food security and trade, thus upsetting the continent’s plan to feed itself.
The extent of the destructive influence the invasive pest wrecks on maize alone is estimated to be between USD$ 2.5 - 6.2 billion per year, destabilising the livelihoods of around 300 million people.
These and many more reasons spurred experts attending the 2018 African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF2018) which began today in Kigali, Rwanda, to deliberate and explore ways of preventing or mitigating the next outbreak in Africa.
Fall armyworm as a global issue
Setting the scene at a session on building the resilience of Africa’s agriculture against invasive species, Dr. Dennis Rangi, Director General of the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI) identified continuing globalisation through increasing trade, travel, and transport of goods across borders as one of the factors facilitating the spread of invasive species, with increasing negative impacts.
The problem, according to him, “is global in scope and requires international cooperation to supplement the actions of governments; the private sector and organisations at national and local levels.”
The recent arrival of fall armyworm in India is a case in point. The caterpillar’s leap from Africa to India confirms the global nature of invasive species and the need for partnerships to tackle the pest.
Chief Scientist at the USAID Bureau for Food Security, Dr. Rob Bertram sees it in a different light.
To him, fall armyworm is a reminder that we live in a small world that is increasingly becoming smaller and we are more connected than ever. The answer therefore, “is more global connectedness through south-south and north-south learning; strengthening research networks; national level leadership; and a coherent regional approach to invasive species,” Dr. Bertram said.
Is Africa ready for the next outbreak?
Dr Rangi believes “a straightforward, three-pronged, internationally recognised approach to addressing the problem of invasive species, namely prevention, early detection & rapid response, and lastly control will help a great deal.”
However, transforming this approach into a reality in policy and practice remains a huge challenge in Africa as African famers usually find themselves trying to address the latest invasion, when the previous invasion is yet to be cleared.
They also lack adequate information and knowledge about preventing and detecting an invasion early enough.
To overcome these challenges, the CABI DG urged African countries to create a policy and regulatory environment that promote sustainable approaches in tackling invasive species; put in place a national invasive species strategy and action plan; and a sustainable investment plan.
Dr. May-Guri Saethre, Deputy Director General, Research for Development at International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) bemoaned the fact that the burden of handling and combating invasive species on a day-to-day manner is to a large extent left to the individual smallholders in Africa.
The way forward, according to her, lies in “working together, farmers, government, researchers and the private sector as current outbreaks are wake-up calls for firm action to protect Africa’s agriculture from the destructive impact of pest outbreaks.”
To prevent the next outbreak, technologies capable of stopping pest and disease entry into Africa by pre-emptive biological controls, horizon scanning and effective early warning systems are available and must be deployed to prevent establishment of new pest through coordinated response and eradication programmes,” Dr Saethre added.
Integrated Pest Management to the rescue?
Despite advances in technology, food production in Africa still largely lies in the hands of smallholder farmers. In the event of an outbreak of fall armyworm, their immediate and predictable response is the use of pesticides which they believe can suppress the invasive specie.
Meanwhile, environmentalists believe pesticides can be harmful, particularly to the environment as they affect non-targeted organisms like bees.
Could effective Integrated Pest Management (IPM) help Africa against fall armyworm?
The answer according to Dr. Dennis Kyetere, Executive Director of African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) is a resounding yes!
A well-defined IPM programme, according to him, usually based on prevention, monitoring, and control, offers the opportunity to eliminate or drastically reduce the use of pesticides, as well as minimise the toxicity of and exposure to any products which are used. An Africa-focused IPM will therefore utilise a variety of methods and techniques, including cultural, biological and structural strategies to control a multitude of pest problems including fall armyworm,” Dr. Kyetere said.
IPM is a broad-based approach that integrates practices for economic control of pests while aiming to suppress pest populations below the economic injury level (EIL).
The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines IPM as "the careful consideration of all available pest control techniques and subsequent integration of appropriate measures that discourage the development of pest populations and keep pesticides and other interventions to levels that are economically justified and reduce or minimize risks to human health and the environment.”
IPM emphasizes the growth of a healthy crop with the least possible disruption to agro-ecosystems and encourages natural pest control mechanisms.
Fall armyworm as an opportunity for Africa
In all, the experts were of the view that tackling fall armyworm in Africa requires a cocktail of solutions which does not exclude any of the aforementioned ideas but comprises enabling policy environment, science and evidence-based framework, research and development that encourages private sector investment, local knowledge sharing, information dissemination and surveillance.
The forum also agreed substantially with the Director General of the Rwandan Agriculture Board, Dr. Patrick Karangwa in his assertion that for Africa to feed itself, “agriculture must now be knowledge-intensive and technology-intensive.”
Indeed, the the presence of fall armyworm in Africa is both a crisis and an opportunity
as a crisis is a terrible thing to waste – will Africa seize the opportunity?
KIGALI, Rwanda (PAMACC News) - An international research organisation has called for urgent action to tackle the global spread of invasive species, which they say is a major threat to sustainable development.
The Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI) has called on counties to ensure that they have national invasive species strategies and action plans in place by 2020 including a national priority list identifying their highest outbreak risks and targeting national efforts accordingly.
“We are falling behind, and progress is currently too slow to achieve the ambitious targets set by the international community,” said Dr Dennis Rangi, the CABI’s Director General for Development.
“If we do not accelerate progress on these critical issues, further outbreaks cannot be prevented,” He told journalists on September 6 at the 2018 Africa Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Kigali, Rwanda.
An invasive species is a plant, weed, worm or any other species that is not native to a specific location, and that has a tendency to spread to a degree believed to cause damage to the environment, human economy or human health.
The fall armyworm is the most important invasive species in 40 African countries and Asia where it has caused untold losses particularly for maize farmers. Known scientifically as, Spodoptera frugiperda, the caterpillar originates in Central and South America. It was first identified in West Africa in January 2016, and has since moved to nearly all African countries.
In East Africa, Prosopis juliflora (known in Kenya as Mathenge) is another invasive species that is devastating goat farmers especially in dryland areas. The shrub produces pods that are too sugary, and when goats feed on them, the sugar content affects the teeth, forcing them to fall off.
Opuntia megacantha is another invasive species in form of cactus. The fruits have sharp thorns, and when livestock animals feed on them, the thorns remain pierced all over in the mouth, in the gums and on the tongue, making it impossible for the animal to feed again. This eventually leads to death of affected animal due to starvation.
And now, CABI has launched an Action on Invasives programme to enable developing countries to prevent or detect and control invasive species in order to protect and restore agricultural and natural ecosystems, reduce crop losses, improve health, remove trade barriers and reduce degradation of natural resources.
The research organisation is also calling on governments to prioritise investment in tackling invasive species and also to develop policy/regulations that will encourage the use of lower risk management methods (biocontrol, Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
The Action on Invasives programme has already been piloted on specific species in Ghana and Pakistan, with support and funding from the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Netherlands’ Directorate-General for International Cooperation (DGIS). It is now being scaled up so that people around the world can fulfil their potential and help their countries prosper.
It is estimated that the fall armyworm in Africa has the potential to cause maize yield losses of up to 20.6 million tonnes per annum in just 12 of Africa’s maize-producing countries. This represents nearly 53% of annual production. The value of these losses is estimated to be up to US$6.2 billion. This despite the fact that maize is the most important staple cereal crop grown by smallholders in sub-Saharan Africa and is the dominant cereal grown in most other African countries.