8) Creating a market-oriented agriculture for Eastern and Southern Africa

Dr Wilson Songa, Principal Secretary, Ministry of Industrialization and Enterprise Development, Kenya looks through ICRISAT's Big Ideas folder with ICRISAT’s incoming Board Chair, Prof Chandra Madramotoo (left) and Director General, Dr William Dar (right).   ICRISAT’s incoming Board Chair, Dr Madramootoo (left) and Director General, Dr Dar, (right), meet with Dr Ephraim Mukisira, Director of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) (2nd from right) and Dr Joseph Mureithi, Deputy Director of KARI (2nd from left).

Hyderabad, India and Nairobi, Kenya (31 January 2014) – A sustainable and market-oriented agriculture is the way forward in making smallholder farming in Eastern and Southern Africa more profitable and resilient, and in feeding the region’s growing population using the limited resources available now and in the future.

Enabling farmers to adapt to changing environment and new opportunities, and making markets work for them are some of the key concerns raised at the three-day regional planning meeting of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) held in Nairobi, Kenya. ICRISAT scientists and senior staff from Kenya, Malawi, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, as well as from West and Central Africa and the ICRISAT headquarters in India participated in the meeting.

“Inclusive market-oriented agriculture is the key to making farming more profitable for the poor and emerging farmers in Eastern and Southern Africa,” stressed Dr William Dar, ICRISAT Director General. 

“Partnerships and collaboration are critical to developing tailor-made solutions that suit the context of the region and providing farmers with access to science-based innovations that will build their resilience,” he added.

The regional planning meeting consisted of a review of on-going research activities in Eastern and Southern Africa as well as brainstorming and interactive sessions to help identify new areas of research and opportunities for scaling out improved technologies and tools.

In-coming Chair of the ICRISAT Board, Prof Chandra Madramootoo, reiterated that science alone was not enough; it must be translated into impacts that make a difference to the lives of smallholder farmers in the drylands. He emphasized that efficient management of the natural resource base was critical to continued productivity in the smallholder cropping system and must be addressed, preferably at the watershed level.

“This planning exercise helps us to ensure that ICRISAT’s research is aligned with the CGIAR Research Programs on Dryland Cereals and Grain Legumes that we are leading. But more importantly, it serves as a check for us to make sure that we are still focused on the right questions, that we are relevant to the smallholder farmers we work for and that we have strategies and tools in place for maximum impact,” said Dr CLL Gowda, ICRISAT’s Deputy Director General for Research.

While in Nairobi for the regional planning meeting, Director General Dr Dar accompanied by incoming Board Chair Prof Madramootoo and the Director of ICRISAT Eastern and Southern Africa, Dr Moses Siambi, paid a courtesy visit to Kenya’s Principal Secretary for the Ministry of Industrialization and Enterprise Development, Dr Wilson Songa. Dr Dar shared with him ICRISAT’s experience in value-addition of its mandate crops and the successful development of the Business Incubator concept.

Dr Songa stated that it was important for ICRISAT to collaborate with the Ministry to contribute to the development of small and medium enterprises throughout Kenya. He indicated that whatever technology ICRISAT could provide would likely be adopted in other countries in the region if it proved to be successful in getting farmers and the youth out of poverty. It was agreed that a team of scientists from ICRISAT and a team from the Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (KIRDI) and the Ministry would meet soon to discuss the way forward in developing a strategic plan for the implementation of identified technologies.

Dr Dar, Prof Madramootoo, and Dr Siambi also paid a courtesy visit to the Director of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), Dr Ephraim Mukisira and its Deputy Director, Dr Joseph Mureithi. During the visit, Dr Mukisira appreciated KARI’s long-term relation with ICRISAT, and proposed a partnership on a new major project in coastal Kenya where the Institute’s mandate crops are very important.

In response, Dr Dar committed to provide technical contribution to the soil mapping and land suitability analyses for the new scheme, to draw from ICRISAT’s experience on sustainable natural resource management in the state of Karnataka in south India. 

Prof Madramootoo also shared with the KARI Director ICRISAT’s Inclusive Market-Oriented Development (IMOD) approach in making technologies profitable for smallholder farmers, and called for a stronger and more dynamic partnership as the way forward in creating a market-oriented agriculture,

As a result of the visit, a team will be identified to work out a time line for a joint planning meeting between KARI and ICRISAT.


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