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African Agriculture Research Receives Major Boost   
 
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12-Aug-2013  
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A new project has emerged on how to apply research to increase the yield of four crops, cassava, maize, wheat and rice to 20% to double the income of farmers in 20 African countries.

The project, Support for Agricultural Research and Development of Strategic Crops (SARD-SC) will be focusing on value chain approach, from production to the final product by looking at aspects of research to increase the yields of the four crops, taking into consideration good varieties, integration of good agronomical practices to increase the yields, and issues of storage, transport, process, and marketing the products.

“It involves lots of scholarships or training on issues of production, processing, as well as gender issues. Focus on four components of the project is research, technology generation (extension, technology dissemination), capacity building and infrastructural development and management of the project’’, said Dr Chrysantus Akem, the SARD-SC project coordinator, at the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (July, 15-20, 2013) in Accra.

The five year project which will end in 2016 is being implemented by three Africa based CGIAR consortium centres, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in charge of maize and cassava, ICARDA also in charge of wheat, and Africa Rice in charge of rice.

Another CGIAR centre, the International Food Policy Research Institute, will provide policy guidance to help strengthen the cooperative groups to work in groups to achieve transformational impact. The IITA is also acting as the execution centre for the project.

The project funded by the African Development Bank, with US$ 63.24 million will create knowledge on tested innovations with farmers in East, West, Central and Southern Africa countries.

“Every year we collect new varieties from the different research institutions and test them on farms for adaption. The varieties that are being developed looks at how these crops adapt to different ecologies in different countries and how yields can increase’’, Dr Akem says.

The 20 participating countries are West Africa (Benin, Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Mauritania, and Niger), East Africa (Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Sudan, and Eritrea), Central Africa (Democratic Republic of Congo,) Sothern Africa (Lesotho, Zambia, Madagascar, and Zimbabwe).

In Ghana maize and rice are the selected crops for the project, and FARA has initiated an approach called Innovative Platform Approach to engage all the different stakeholders namely the farmers, researchers, policy makers, marketers to discuss what the problems are and come out with possible solutions.

“This helps for easy adoption of the technology because we engage the end users right at the beginning of the project to come out with technologies that can adopt to their conditions’’, Dr Akem said.

The role of FARA is a back stop institution to bring value to the project. “Other countries have access to technologies in what is called regional public goods for those countries that are not part of the project’’, he emphasised.

Overall the expected outcome is to increase productivity, with monitoring evaluation specialists to track the performance of the project on yearly basis. Prof Sanni Lateef, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria says the structure of the project is such that it is going to enhance sustainable commercial value chain for wheat, rice, cassava and maize.

“And it has engagement protocol for partner countries and has a lot of spill over effects potentially in the future if the project is solidly implemented’’, he said.

The fact that Africa Development Bank is championing the project shows that is a purely a commercial one and is going to be purely private sector driven and there is a lot sustainability in the project, Prof Lateef noted.
 
 
Source: Samuel Hinneh
 
 

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