21) ICRISAT strengthens research in sub-Saharan Africa (10 March 2005)

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) is strengthening its research activities in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), even while retaining its focus on biotechnology and crop improvement in Asia.

According to Dr William Dar, Director General of ICRISAT, the institute has been committing greater financial and scientific resources for integrated genetic and natural resources management in SSA. This has been supported by a greater administrative decentralization to the regional centers for west and central Africa (WCA) and eastern and southern Africa (ESA).

In the past two years, ICRISAT has been taking a focused approach to enhance crop productivity to improve the livelihood of the poor and marginal farmers in the semi-arid tropics of SSA, guided by an integrated genetic and natural resources management strategy, said Dr Uzo Mokwunye, Chair of ICRISAT Governing Board.

The institute's research in SSA is focused on five thrust areas. They are: crop improvement and seed sector reform; commercialization; systems diversification; improved food security through sustainable management of resources; and human resources capacity strengthening.

In WCA, this has resulted in an improved germplasm and sustainable seed system strategy; and an integration of crop, tree and livestock systems. A strategy for desertification mitigation and disaster preparedness is also being promoted.

In ESA, there has been a support to integrated genetic and natural resources management through crop improvement, commercialization and seed sector reforms. ICRISAT has also had an impact on disaster relief and also enhanced food security through the integration of crop-livestock sectors.

ICRISAT has also launched the process for developing sustainable seed systems in sub-Saharan Africa. The availability of improved seeds of well-adapted crop varieties benefit the farmers who grow seeds for subsistence and also those who produce for the commercial market. The benefit is through improved food availability and income.

The seed systems process will draw upon the combined expertise of the CGIAR centers working in partnership with the NARS and international organizations to improve access to and adoption of new varieties, to strengthen private-sector capacity for seed marketing, and to promote the development of regional seed markets to achieve better economies of scale.

ICRISAT is also partnering South-South cooperation in the area of natural resources management. The successes achieved in Asia on natural resources management through watershed development, are not being transferred to SSA, by linking the national agricultural research system from Asia with their counterparts in the African countries.

In addition to the national agricultural organizations, ICRISAT is enhancing its partnership with regional and sub-regional organizations for agricultural development. These organize focus on the development of a group of countries in a region.

ICRISAT has six offices in SSA. They are at Niamey in Niger, Bamako in Mali, Nairobi in Kenya, Bulawayo in Zimbabwe, Lilongwe in Malawi and Maputo in Mozambique.

by ICRISAT. All rights reserved.