Team from the World Bank visits ICRISAT-Mali.
“The research-for-development community and the private sector should reinforce their linkages with farming communities by greater collaboration among themselves so that best research benefits the most disadvantaged,” said Mr Chakib Jenane, Practice Manager, Agriculture and Food, World Bank, when he, along with his team, visited ICRISAT center in Mali. He went on to discuss elements of partnership between ICRISAT’s research programs and the World Bank operations in West Africa.
During the visit on 24 November 2021, the World Bank (WB) team was briefed on ICRISAT’s key impacts in the region through an audio-visual presentation, including special inputs on the Africa Food Prize recently awarded to ICRISAT and the Smart Food initiative.
Dr Ramadjita Tabo, Regional Director, ICRISAT-West and Central Africa emphasized the key areas of interventions of ICRISAT in the region, viz. drought adaptation and mitigation, soil fertility management, studying abiotic and biotic stresses on crops, food and nutrition, etc. He also insisted on the role of the crop improvement operations team (CIOT) which is a one-stop shop for ICRISAT breeding programs.
Dr Robert Zougmore, Africa Leader, Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), highlighted the use of climate-resistant crop varieties as useful to helping farmers cope with the impact of climate variability. CCAFS, which has served numerous farmers and inspired many projects during the past decade, is now involved in the Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA) by the International Development Association (IDA) from 2021 to 2023. In the AICCRA project funded by the World Bank, ICRISAT will play an important role including, for example, for dryland cereals in Senegal, he added.
Dr Jean Baptiste Tignegre, Vegetable Breeder and Officer-in-Charge, WorldVeg, West and Central Africa – Dry Regions, presented the 2021-2025 strategic plan of WorldVeg along with focus areas of interventions in the region.
Unlocking technologies from the lab to the farm
Mr Chakib Jenane commended ICRISAT and WorldVeg for their work. He encouraged both institutes and the overall research-for-development community to engage more with the private sector in order to bridge the gap between top research and end beneficiaries, and to further enforce their linkages with the farming communities for greater impacts. “Food insecurity has been increasing in the region and though a lot of research is being carried out, only a few technologies have reached and impacted the farmers.”
To bring the science closer to the end users, Dr Ramadjita Tabo suggested more investment from governments to support policies, infrastructure, and human as well as financial resources. “Research centers have tried hard to reach out to farmers with improved technologies in a participatory manner, yet the seed system leaves much to be desired. We need countries that are risk-takers and are willing to invest in infrastructure such as roads, mechanization and much more. We need also to create a pool of human resources in the private sector who will take this seed system ahead,” he explained.
Dr Amadou Ba, Senior Agricultural Economist, World Bank, emphasized the good working relationship between ICRISAT and the World Bank in Niger and appreciated the concept of climate-smart villages promoted by CCAFS in the country. “We need to learn lessons from this experience and find out how to scale them up,” he said. On how to unlock technology dissemination from laboratories to farms, he said that the link between ICRISAT and the national research system was crucial. “One step toward this,” he said, “has been of the establishment of the Centers of Excellence of the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP).” He mentioned a new investment by WB that approved a US$570 million multi-phase programmatic approach program to be implemented by three regional centers (CORAF, UMOA and AGRHYMET) to improve food system resilience, promote intraregional value chains, and build regional capacity to manage agricultural risks.
During the meeting, the WB delegation interacted with the WorldVeg team and discussed technologies available in horticulture in villages; how the partnership between ICRISAT and WorldVeg has been deployed; and ways to collaborate with ongoing and upcoming projects funded by the WB Group. The lack of local seed system for vegetable was highlighted by both parties.
Overall, all participants agreed on the need for a paradigm shift in the relationship between research-for-development and its end users. “To get out of food insecurity, we need to move from looking only to research outputs to research outcomes. We can increase adoption and sustain the seed system with business models,” said Dr Zougmore.
During this visit to ICRISAT, Mr Chakib Jenane was accompanied by Dr Amadou Ba and Ms Rhoda Rubaiza, Senior Agricultural Economist, World Bank. The meeting at ICRISAT-Mali, was attended virtually by colleagues from Niger and Nigeria from their respective locations. It concluded with a visit to the Genomics and Postharvest facilities, seed conservation chambers, and mobile garden of the World Vegetable Center hosted by ICRISAT-Mali in Samanko.