The African Development Bank (AfDB) and researchers have launched a $63.24 million AfDB-funded initiative that aims to raise agricultural productivity and also take millions of Africans out of poverty.
The 5-year, multi-CGIAR centre initiative known as 'Support to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops in Africa' (SARD-SC) is a research, science, and technology development initiative aimed at enhancing the productivity and income derived from cassava, maize, rice, and wheat.
The four crops are part of the six commodities that African Heads of States, through the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme, have defined as strategic crops for Africa.
During the launch of the initiative in Ibadan, Nigeria, the Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Dr. Nteranya Sanginga, called on researchers to deliver 'quick impact' to justify the investments in research.
"We should begin to demonstrate impact in the next two years using available technologies already developed. Everything in SARD-SC is about impact and not only writing scientific papers," Sanginga said.
The SARD-SC Project comes at an opportune time when food security and nutrition are high on the national agenda of the AfDB Regional Member Countries (RMCs), as rising food prices push millions of people into extreme hunger and poverty. The SARD-SC allows - for the first time ever in a single project - a continental coverage of the food security challenges in Africa.
"What we intend to achieve goes beyond food security. We are looking at boosting incomes and reducing poverty in Africa," said the Resident Representative, Nigeria Field Office of the AfDB, Mr. Ousmane Dore, who launched the event on behalf of AfDB's President, Dr Donald Kaberuka.
"Apart from supporting research with broad sectoral and/or economic-wide objectives, the social impact of this intervention is significant. This is underscored by the all-inclusive nature of the project beneficiaries: farmers' groups, youth, private sector, policy makers, rural entrepreneurs, national agricultural research and extension systems (NARES), community based organisations, and nongovernmental organisations," he explained.
The project, which will run until 2016, will be co-implemented by three Africa-based CGIAR centres: IITA, Africa Rice Centre, and the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas. IITA is also the Executing Agency of the project.
Another CGIAR centre - the International Food Policy Research Institute - a specialised technical agency, will support the other three centres.
Deputy Director General (Partnerships & Capacity Development), Dr. Kenton Dashiell, said the distinctive nature of the project offered an opportunity to improve food security in Africa. He also called on partners and researchers to work towards building a new and better future for Africa using the project as a tool.