Dr Nteranya Sanginga
In 2017, we will be celebrating our 50th anniversary – half a century spent in nourishing Africa through research-for-development! Not many international agricultural research centers have made it this far. I cannot imagine an Africa – or a world for that matter – without IITA. However, as we look towards this milestone and beyond it with great anticipation, we should also not lose focus on the present. This is a world in which the agricultural and food landscapes are drastically and dramatically changing. IITA must continue to adapt if we are to remain relevant and exist for the next 50 years or more.
IITA is at the midpoint of its 2012-2020 Refreshed Strategy. If we achieve our target milestones, by 2020 we should have lifted 11 million people out of poverty and brought back 7.5 million hectares of degraded land into productive and sustainable use across Africa. And we are getting set for this result.
In 2015, we increased our human resources and accompanied this with substantial investments in research infrastructure across our Hubs to support our increased activities. We also continued to support and promote our youth-in-agriculture initiative, providing a working model that is now being replicated and adopted by many Governments and other organizations across the continent and helping to ensure that young Africans of today will become the drivers of economic growth – today and tomorrow.
We also focused on strengthening our research-to-commercialization pathway through our Business Incubation Platform (BIP) and public-private partnerships to ensure that our research results and products such as Aflasafe, NoduMax, and GoSeed get into the hands of beneficiaries.
As climate change is making pests and diseases yet more destructive and unpredictable, IITA scientists continued to explore new and more efficient genetic avenues to give an edge for survival to important African crops. At the same time, we also undertook efforts to document lessons learned on deploying some of our climate-smart technologies.
On the home front, we initiated a serious exercise to streamline our data management systems to make sure that research data and information are efficiently organized, readily available, and able to “talk” to and understand each other. To ensure that staff – our most precious asset – perform at their peak, we instituted policies and initiatives that put gender equality top and center in the workplace.
This year, we continued to enhance existing relationships and reach out to new donors and partners who will continue with us, shoulder-to-shoulder, on our way to achieving our 2020 goals.
There is no question that we need to maintain our momentum, our integrated approach, our high-quality science and people, and our outstanding partnerships. We also need to continuously evaluate and reinvent ourselves as the situations demand, and stay focused and guided by the principles outlined in our Refreshed Strategy.
I invite everyone to read in more detail some of our success stories in 2015.