Research by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture is not only increasing knowledge generally in the sciences, but also positively transforming livelihoods in Africa, says Ms Cecilia Akintomide, Secretary General, African Development Bank.
“The impact is real and I am proud of the results coming out of this African-based research institution,” Akintomide said during a private visit to IITA in Ibadan on Monday.
This is not the first time IITA is being commended for its impact in Africa. In 2007, an impact assessment team by the Science Council of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) reported that about 70% of the impact by the CGIAR in Africa came from research outputs of IITA. Today, more than 60 % of improved maize grown in West and Central Africa comes from IITA varieties.
Working with international and national partners in Africa, IITA has over the years developed improved crop varieties which are superior in terms of yield to local varieties. Most of these improved varieties are resistant to pest and diseases. In the Great Lakes region where cassava brown streak is a menace, tolerant cassava varieties developed by IITA are helping farmers in cutting down annual losses that are estimated at $50 million.
Growing up, Akintomide spent her childhood and early adulthood years in IITA, where her father was the first African Director of Administration. The multicultural and multilingual environment in IITA created in her a deep appreciation of diversity. For her diversity was normal while the lack thereof was abnormal.
During the trip to IITA, Akintomide visited the gene bank, and given AfDB’s keen focus on post conflict and fragile states, she was impressed by the impact of the gene bank in post-conflict countries, as the source of the seeds and plants of hope that were used to restart farming in post conflict countries such as Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda.
On the economic importance of agriculture, she recalled that in Nigeria, for instance, before the discovery of oil, agriculture was the key driver of the economy, with cocoa playing a leading role particularly in the southwestern region. The early infrastructure in the region was built from revenues generated from cocoa.
The AfDB secretary general noted that the bank’s Medium Term Strategy included in its pillars; infrastructure, higher education, science and technology. These MTS pillars provided areas of convergence between AfDB and IITA.
Receiving the AfDB secretary general, Dr. Nteranya Sanginga, IITA Director General commended the bank for its investment in research and development.
He said that besides improving the quality of research, IITA would continue to focus on capacity building and the strengthening of partnership with international and local institutions.
The director general said these areas of focus by IITA would help in addressing the challenges facing the continent and compliment the bank’s efforts towards improving livelihoods.
Both IITA and AfDB have a long history of partnering for development, with tangible results of such partnership. The two institutions are working together to enhance that partnership in the near future.