IITA DG tasks African leaders on diversification, value addition

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Mr Nteranya Sanginga, the Director-General, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), has urged African leaders to increase their political will and budgetary allocation to diversify into agriculture.

Sanginga made the plea in Ibadan on Friday while presenting his scorecards as director-general of the institute in the last 11 years.

He said, for Africa to continue to feed itself and the rest of the world, it must move away from exporting raw agricultural produce to value addition.

Sanginga expressed hope for the continent, stating that African leaders were beginning to understand the importance of agriculture.

He, however, called for a total change of mindset to commit huge resources to agriculture and implement policies.

According to him, I became the Director-General at IITA-CGIAR on Nov. 1, 2011 and during my term of 11 years I have brought about tremendous transformation in the institute and in the African agricultural landscape.

Sanginga said though, he met a weak institution when he assumed office, with various challenges threatening the existence of the institute.

He said that the people- oriented leadership style employed became a game changer that helped to reposition the institute.

 “My leadership tenure has strategically positioned the institute to contribute to achieving 150 million fewer hungry people.

“One hundred million fewer poor people, improving food and nutrition security, as well as improving natural resources and ecosystem services as part of the CGIAR Strategy 2016-2030,” the director-general said.

Sanginga, whose tenure ends by January, 2023, said he created programmes to provide employment for youths under the youth agripreneurs programme initiated in 2012.

 “IITA has created jobs for thousands of youths by making agriculture and agribusiness appealing to young people in many African countries.

“A programme that has now evolved into a movement across the continent and has since been integrated into the Business Incubation Platform (BIP), the technology delivery arm of IITA.

“The IITA Youth Agripreneurs programme focuses on mentoring and building the capacity of young people, especially youths in science, entrepreneurship and agriculture/agribusiness in Africa.

“We started during my tenure, the Business Incubation Platform, which oversees IITA’s science and technologies in breeding and variety screening, genetics, cultivation techniques, plant health, disease control and biopesticide development, growth stimulation and vegetative and generative multiplication delivery to end-users acro Africa.

“IITA-BIP serves as a model to stimulate product development and to provide opportunities for market expansion on the continent,” Sanginga said.

He said that having identified the impact gap from the institute research, a lot of projects were instituted across various states in Nigeria and African countries.

According to him, some of the projects and programmes included the seed sector, especially for vegetatively propagated crops-immensely important for food security in Africa.

“The Seed Tracker is an ICT tool that digitally links seed value chain actors, tracks seed production, and organises information.

“Other achievements were: Radio IITA was launched in August, 2019 to promote farmer awareness and literacy about improved agricultural technologies, agribusiness, health, nutrition, and gender.

“Since its inception, also in 2019, the Start Them Early Programme was officially launched to change primary and secondary school students’ negative views on agriculture, among others,” the director-general said.

He said that his future endeavours included championing the partnership formed between the Nigeria and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) tagged: “Nigeria-DRC Business Forum” to promote agriculture.