The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL) in Zambia and the Zambia Agriculture Research Institute (ZARI), with support from the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), successfully launched the African Development Bank-funded Multinational - Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Support to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops in Africa (SARD-SC) on April 16, 2013.
At a well-attended opening ceremony, Zambia's Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, Bob Sichinga, challenged the project managers to deliver value for money. He advocated for sustainable partnerships and support to ongoing Government initiatives such as farm blocks and industrial clusters.
He cautioned researchers against being too academic and challenged them to deliver innovations that will lift farmers out of poverty. He applauded the AfDB for its support of farm-level research that will improve agricultural productivity as this provides the only hope for inclusive growth in rural Africa. He called for a broader food base and diversified agricultural industry through mechanization and irrigation to move producers to higher levels of productivity.
On behalf of AfDB Resident Representative Freddie Kwesiga, Philip Boahen, AfDB Country Program Officer in the Zambia Field Office (ZMFO), reiterated the African Development Bank's commitment towards its regional member countries (RMCs). He informed the meeting that the Bank developed a Ten Year Strategy (TYS) spanning the period 2013 to 2023. µ
The main goal of this new strategy, according to Boahen, is to support Africa's ambitions to transform into a stable, integrated and prosperous continent. He noted Zambia's strong economic performance with growth of over seven per cent in 2012. In spite of this story of high growth on the continent, poverty has not reduced as anticipated and poverty remains high. This means that growth in Zambia has not been inclusive.
Boahen indicated that over 70 per cent of Zambians depend on agriculture for their livelihood. An increase in farm-level productivity would significantly affect income levels, especially in the rural areas where poverty is estimated to be above 60 per cent.
The Bank believes that addressing the factors contributing to low productivity through the adoption of applied research, rural innovation, science and technology would go a long way to address issues of food security and malnutrition on the continent. He further indicated that issues of job creation, inclusive growth, green growth and economic diversification need to be addressed as part of home-grown solutions to development challenges on the continent, and the African Development Bank will play its role, and continue to be a preferred partner on the continent.
The IITA Regional Hub Director thanked the Bank for the US $68 million in financial support, channeled through the CGIAR group, for the development of cassava, rice, maize and wheat in Africa. He assured the meeting that IITA would apply part of the funds to build a Cassava Processing and Trading Centre in Zambia to promote a value chain approach to commercialization.
The expected R&D outcomes would be at least a 20 per cent increase in crop yield and food security among the 827,000 targeted beneficiary households in Africa. Over five million people would benefit indirectly from project interventions.
The event was attended by over 60 participants drawn from the public, private sector industry, CGIAR and media institutions. The project implementation being coordinated by IITA, also involves AfricaRice, International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) and International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), working in 20 African countries. The event also received good media coverage.