Abidjan — The Ivorian government is to set up the country's first fund dedicated to financing all areas of agricultural research.
The decision to create the Interprofessional Fund for Agricultural Research and Advice (FIRCA) was announced by ministers last month (6 February).
Bruno Nabagné Koné, the minister for information and communications technology, says that Côte d'Ivoire's agricultural sector will remain the country's main source of economic growth and poverty reduction for at least the next decade.
To maintain agriculture's economic input, Koné says, "a particular emphasis must be put on agricultural research to increase both the quantity and quality of production".
He adds that the new fund will support the work of the National Agency for Rural Development and the National Centre of Agronomic Research.
The fund will be financed by a sales tax on certain agricultural cash crops.
Koné says that 0.5 West African CFA francs (0.1 US cents) will be levied per kilogram of dessert bananas and ten West African CFA francs (two US cents) per kilogram of rubber.
According to Mamadou Sangafowa Coulibaly, the minister of agriculture, the banana sector represents eight per cent of Côte d'Ivoire's agricultural GDP (gross domestic product). The country produces 230,000 tonnes of dessert bananas and 130,000 tonnes of natural rubber a year.
At a press conference, Sangafowa said that funding agricultural research will lead to a boost in the production of yam, cassava and plantain.
"These food crops are far ahead of cash crops, as they directly or indirectly involve an important part of the population. And what's more, the incomes they generate are directly taken by the actors concerned with the production of these crops," he tells SciDev.Net.
Hervé Koutouan, a lecturer and researcher at the University of Abidjan, says the new fund is a great opportunity for Ivorian researchers.
But he regrets the fact that the sales taxes imposed to raise money for it are only due to run from 2013 to 2015.
"To ensure funding for agricultural research is sustainable, the government should not impose a deadline in tax levying for the financing of FIRCA," he says.
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa desk.