A visiting European Union delegation to ICRISAT’s regional hub in Mali, led by H.E. Ambassador Bart Ouvry has commended ICRISAT and reaffirmed the grouping’s support for the Institute’s work in improving food and nutritional security for Malian farmers.
The Ambassador was accompanied by Kristina Kühnel, Ambassador of Sweden and representatives of the Embassies of Germany, France, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Denmark who visited the hub on the 29th June.
Ambassador Ouvry congratulated ICRISAT on winning the 2021 African Food Prize and for celebrating 50 years of delivering scientific and humanitarian impacts globally.
“This research center deserves our support; it develops solutions to enable Sahelians to increase the quality and quantity of food. A fundamental issue in view of the world food situation,” said H.E Bart Ouvry following a tour of ICRISAT’s facilities.
In his opening presentation, Dr Ramadjita Tabo, Regional Director, ICRISAT-West and Central Africa gave an overview of ICRISAT’s work over 50 years.
“Founded in 1972, ICRISAT’s mission is to help build the capacity of 600 million people to overcome hunger, poverty and environmental degradation in the semi-arid tropics through climate-resilient agriculture,” said Dr Tabo.
In close collaboration with national research systems and their partners ICRISAT has fostered success in agricultural research by developing new high-yielding, nutrient-rich, crops varieties adapted to the various agro-climatic zones.
The institute has also led the development and dissemination of improved varieties and hybrids of sorghum, millet and groundnut, which have enabled farmers to improve their productivity, supported by technologies for water conservation and integrated management of soil fertility such as the micro-dosing of fertilizers. Through its gene banks, the Institute conserves valuable genetic resources of millet, sorghum and groundnuts.
The visit began with an exhibition of “Smart Food” products made from millet, sorghum, groundnuts and cowpeas.
Speaking at the event Ms Agathe Diama, Head Regional Communications and Smart Food Coordinator, ICRISAT – West and Central Africa spoke on the growing importance of Smart Food.
“The Smart Food initiative aims to promote a healthy diet through the production and development of nutrient-rich, climate-resilient and locally available crops in order to improve the nutrition and living conditions of smallholder farmers,” said Ms Diama.
“The “Smart Food” initiative aims in particular to provide children with a balanced daily food intake through the use of cereals bio-fortified with iron and zinc”, added Dr Tabo.
The delegation also visited ICRISAT’s modern aflatoxin laboratory, the gene bank and experimental greenhouses. Demonstrations were provided using digital technology for agricultural surveys and innovative port-harvest equipment which were commended for overcoming traditional data gathering challenges.
ICRISAT – EU Collaboration
ICRISAT Director General, Dr Jacqueline Hughes said the visit by the delegation was both warmly welcomed and encouraging given the escalating food security challenges facing developing nations in view of changing geo-politics, climate change and weak institutional frameworks, as but some of the issues facing predominantly agrarian based developing economies.
“ICRISAT recognises the generosity and progressive support the EU delivers to addressing some of the most critical challenges facing small holder dry land farmers today, and we have been delighted to work in partnership to deliver the required solutions being called for.
“Our collaboration on the EU funded project, ‘Enhancing crop productivity and climate resilience for food security and nutrition in Mali’ is but one exemplar of this approach.
“We look forward to continuing engagement with our friends and partners in the EU to strengthen our collaboration in order to better respond to the food and nutritional needs of approximately 2.1 billion people in the drylands” said Dr Hughes.
ICRISAT’s regional research center located in Samanko, a few kilometers from Bamako, hosts several other research institutes (Worldveg, ICRAF, IITA, ILRI) working on improving crop productivity and climate resilience for food security and nutrition in Mali.
The development of agriculture and the improvement of food and nutritional security is a major area of intervention for the European Union.
The EU-funded project “Enhancing crop productivity and climate resilience for food security and nutrition in Mali” is being implemented by ICRISAT. The project aims to contribute to the sustainable increase of agricultural productivity and farmers’ incomes in the context of climate change in four regions (Sikasso, Kayes, Segou and Koulikoro), targeting 10,000 producers.
The Netherlands and Germany are also funding research projects through ICRISAT for the scaling up of improved groundnut varieties and new high-yielding and nutrient-rich varieties of sorghum and millet.