ICARDA launched a Sub-Saharan research platform last week, moving into a new phase of expanded partnerships and a growing role in the region. The new platform, inaugurated in Addis Ababa, builds on ICARDA’s 35-year partnership with the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), providing a foundation on which to serve a bigger global and regional role – applying scientific solutions to improve agricultural productivity and raise incomes throughout East Africa and the Horn of Africa.
The launch also coincided with the initiation of ICARDA’s regional program for sub-Saharan Africa - the two-day event set the stage for a targeted science agenda to take shape for the region, bringing together the heads and members of National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania, Somalia, and Djibouti. NARS discussed their national priorities and challenges, and the support required from key agricultural organizations active in the region, such as the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), the Association for strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASRAECA), and the African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services. These and other regional bodies were present at the meeting, included the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and the Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa (CCARDESA).
International organizations active in Africa also attended: the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Department for International Development (DFID), and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
The consultative approach of the platform is of particular value, setting forth an agenda that responds to gaps and involves all stakeholders, remarked Adekunle Adewale, FARA’s Director for Partnership & Strategic Alliance as he commended the new initiative and its all-inclusive manner of implementation.
The Sub-Saharan Africa platform is a promising development in the region as ICARDA’s ‘systems approach’ experience in drylands productivity brings complementary expertise to the region, where several CGIAR centers have already been active for several years.
Africa’s population is fast growing, placing increasing demands for food supply and the biggest increase in food productivity will come from dryland areas, according to ASARECA’s Hezron Mogoka. The platform will focus on integrated crop, rangeland and livestock productivity, and will complement the International Livestock Research Center’s (ILRI) activities in the region. The Platform will also be hosted at ILRI’s campus in Addis Ababa.
The active participation of all countries in discussing their expectations, requirements, and vision for partnerships with the newly launched platform demonstrated signs of new vitality and hope amongst all stakeholders for research and scientific solutions capable of bringing large-scale impacts. Reflecting on the opportunity presented by the platform, Adewale sees it as truly an important development for Africa.
For EIAR’s Deputy Director General, Adugna Wakjira, the Program is a “victory” for Ethiopia as it builds on a three decade-long successful partnership with ICARDA. The country’s farmers have been benefiting from many improved crop varieties - barley, lentils, chick peas, wheat and faba – as well as land and water management innovations and ongoing capacity building on farm and in labs.
Welcoming ICARDA’s expanding role in the region, Ethiopia looked forward to more productive value chains and the effective development of agri-businesses, along with bridging food gaps. Moving forward, National Agricultural Research Systems in regional countries will discuss their priorities and set preliminary strategies and objectives before initiating further consultations to finalize their plans.