NEPAD’s Ibrahim Mayaki makes the case for investing in Africa’s agricultural research for development

NEPAD CEO Ibrahim Assane Mayaki

Ibrahim Assane Mayaki (photo credit: Africa Renewal / John Gillespie, via Wikimedia Commons).

Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, chief executive officer the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Planning and Coordinating Agency, delivered an informative keynote address during CAADP Day (Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme) and the Ministerial Roundtable held last week (17 Jul) as part of the sixth Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6) organized by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) in Accra, Ghana, 15–20 Jul 2013.

CAADP is the vehicle for Africa’s response to challenges in agricultural development. It is based on inclusiveness and evidence. Ten years after its launch, CAADP was able to re-mobilize around agricultural development. We are at a time when we need to sustain the momentum, especially in clarifying the vision we have on agriculture in the next decades. This is what should provide a framework for research objectives.—Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, CEO of NEPAD

Below are other research-focused excerpts, edited for brevity, from the keynote Ibrahim Mayaki gave last week.

The importance that NEPAD attaches to science and innovation is reflected in the mandate it received for implementing Africa’s Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action.

The place given to research as one of the four pillars of CAADP is also a reflection of this fact.

When CAADP was launched, there was the acute perception that research was required to recover the position it had dramatically lost during the structural adjustment period. From 1991 to 1999, public expenditures on agricultural research in sub-Saharan Africa fell in real terms while at the same time the demand for crop products in Africa increased by 40%.

Fortunately, things have changed over the last decade, with a renewed interest in research that is reflected in spending increase of about 2.6% per year in real terms against 1% in the previous decade.

However, the expenditure still remains below levels existing prior to the devastating effects of structural adjustment.

Efforts in agricultural research remain below the target of 1% of agricultural GDP which can be derived from the general commitment that African leaders had taken in 2006 to allocate 1% of global GDP to research and development. The number of countries that have achieved it is very close to that of countries that comply with the target set in Maputo in 2008 to spend 10% of public expenditure on agriculture.

In sub-Saharan Africa, for each million agricultural workers, there are less than 70 full-time agricultural researchers.

Involvement of the private sector in financing research has been presented as an option but examples are too few to be presented as a general model.

Most public research institutions have restructured their systems to become more responsive and accountable to stakeholders (clients, farmers, agribusinesses and consumers) and to introduce sound financial and accounting systems.

We need to rebuild institutions and improve governance; the decay of research systems over a long period still undermines the effectiveness of research.
Problems
1. Career advancements have been limited while working conditions have deteriorated, leading to an erosion of skills of researchers.
2. Capital is being eroded, with most funds used to pay wage increases or rehabilitate infrastructure and equipment at the expense of increased research production.
3. Due to lack of means, engagement of researchers in field work is limited, with most researchers remaining in their offices, focusing on desk work disconnected from reality.
4. Research faces cultural and societal prejudice, leading to an overwhelming disproportion of men in its structures while the agricultural world is vibrant thanks to the work of women.

Major areas for further efforts
1 Maintain a critical mass of research at the national level.
2 Have an open approach to private research.
3 Integrate research in a two-way knowledge system with farmers, extension workers and others.
4 Evaluate researchers based on development objectives rather than their publishing record in scientific journals.

Give special attention to the entrepreneurial role of women. Women, not only reinvest in their businesses, but also place high value on social investments in their communities.—Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, CEO of NEPAD

To meet development challenges, research must address political, societal and technical concerns
1 At the political level, we must maintain the control of our knowledge production system and increase our capacity; dependence on external funding will not allow research to take over our agricultural destiny. Tax revenues rose from $140 billion in 2002 to over $500 billion in 2011. We no longer have an excuse not to strengthen our human capital and knowledge.

2 At the societal level, we need to better listen to local knowledge and be open to foreign knowledge. Misunderstandings about the role of innovation, especially in the field of biotechnology, are often indicative of an approach that is too narrow.

3 At the technical level, we need to better align with, and meet, demands while also considering conditions needed for farmer adoption of technologies. Risk aversion should be part of research concerns.

. . . With the growing global uncertainty and external pressure on our natural resources, we should think of upgrading the African food security strategy to a food sovereignty strategy . . . . At a more technical level, we certainly should promote the preference for sustainable farming systems that are labor intensive and we should give much more emphasis to farming as a business. . . .
Change and transformation in agriculture must start from within the continent and its men and women, especially with smallholder farmers that are the majority and have the highest potential for change. . . .—Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, CEO of NEPAD

About AASW6
FARA’s 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6), in Accra, Ghana, included marketplace exhibitions (15–20 Jul 2013), side events on sub-themes (15–16), a ministerial roundtable alongside a Ghana Day (17 Jul), plenary sessions (18–19) and a FARA Business Meeting (20 Jul). The discussions were captured on Twitter (hashtag #AASW6) and blogged about on the FARA AASW6 blog.

About Ibrahim Hassane Mayaki
Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, chief executive officer of NEPAD, has served his country, Niger, as both minister (in the ministries of African Integration and Cooperation and Foreign Affairs) and prime minister. As prime minister of Niger, Mayaki played a catalyst role in enhancing social dialogue in the country. He holds a master’s degree from the National School of Public Administration, in Québec, and a PhD in administrative sciences from the University of Paris I. Mayaki was professor of public administration and management in Niger and Venezuela and worked for ten years in Niger’s mining sector. From 2000 to 2004, Mayaki was a visiting professor at the University of Paris XI, where he taught international affairs and organizations and led research at the Centre for Research on Europe and the Contemporary World. In 2011, the French government awarded Mayaki the medal of Officer in the National Order of Agricultural Merit.

Read more on the ILRI blogs about AASW6
Recycling Africa’s agro-industrial wastewaters: Innovative system is piloted for Kampala City Abattoir, 22 Jul 2013

Jimmy Smith and Frank Rijsberman speak out at FARA’s Africa Agriculture Science Week, 22 Jul 2013

Lindiwe Majele Sibanda and Monty Jones on closing the gaps in agricultural research for Africa’s development, 19 Jul 2013

Voices from the sixth Africa Agriculture Science Week, 18 Jul 2013

‘Not by food alone’: Livestock research should be used to make a bigger difference, say African experts, 17 Jul 2013

‘Livestock Research for Africa’s Food Security’: Join us at our side event at FARA’s AASW in Accra, 15 July, 9 Jul 2013

Dairy farming = ‘dairy education’: The sector that is educating Kenya’s children – filmed story, 12 Jul 2013

‘Not by food alone’: Livestock research should be used to make a bigger difference, say African experts

Livestock landscapes: Africa

Livestock matter to the livelihoods and ambitions of most people living in Africa and other developing regions of the world (image credit: ILRI/Rob O’Meara).

Note: This post was developed by ILRI corporate communications staff Paul Karaimu and Muthoni Njiru.

The 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6) of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) is being held this week (15–Jul 2013) in Accra, Ghana. The official opening and plenary sessions start tomorrow, Thu 18 Jul.

Speaking at Monday’s launch of the whole AASW6 week, Tiemoko Yo, chairperson of FARA, said the science week aimed to respond to some of the burning issues in African agricultural research for development. Many if not most of those issues were discussed in more than 50 side events held over the first 2 days of the week, many of them by CGIAR centres.

One such side event organized by the International Livestock Research (ILRI) explored the role of  ‘Livestock research for Africa’s food security and poverty reduction’. Sixty-five people from agricultural and livestock development, extension and government agencies participated in this three-hour session facilitated by ILRI’s Even Le Borgne and held on 15 Jul. Five topics were  discussed:

  • The biomass crisis in intensifying smallholder livestock systems
  • Vulnerability and risk in drylands
  • Food safety and aflatoxins
  • Livestock vaccine biosciences
  • Mobilizing biosciences for a food-secure Africa

The session started with a look at Africa’s livestock sector as a whole.
After ILRI director Jimmy Smith welcomed the guests to ILRI’s morning discussion, Shirley Tarawali, ILRI director of institutional planning and partnerships, explained one of the aims of the session. ‘Today, with our partners and stakeholders, we’d like to reflect on where we can work closely with others to influence and develop capacity to enhance Africa’s agriculture.’

Half of the highest-value African commodities are livestock products, including milk and meat.—Shirley Tarawali, ILRI

ILRI presentation for ALiCE2013: Highest value African commodities

Next was a brief look at an emerging ‘biomass crisis’ in African agriculture.
Iain Wright, who leads an Animal Science for Sustainable Productivity program at ILRI, said ‘Livestock feed is at the interface of the positive and negative effects of livestock raising. Helping Africa’s many millions of farmers and herders to boost their livestock productivity through more and better feeds while also helping them to conserve their natural resources is a major challenge for livestock scientists.’

Biomass production is the most significant user of land resources and water in livestock production systems. We need to think how to produce this biomass more efficiently.—Iain Wright, ILRI

Biomass crisis

Next up was a quick overview of the public health threats posed by livestock foods and aflatoxins.
‘Ensuring food safety is one of the most important issues facing the agricultural sector today’, said Delia Grace, a veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert at ILRI.  ‘This is especially so in developing countries, where food-borne diseases are among the top five health burdens. Livestock diseases and unsafe milk, meat and eggs pose multiple burdens on the poor. They sicken and kill people and animals and burden national economies with huge economic losses’.

Each year, Africa loses billions of dollars due to aflatoxins, which occur on mouldy maize, groundnuts and other crops and crop harvests. The widespread presence of aflatoxins in Africa hurts the continent not only by making people ill but also by contributing to lost market opportunities.—Delia Grace, ILRI

Unfortunately, she said, efforts to improve food safety standards can end up hurting the poor, who, finding it difficult to meet those standards, are often cut off from the informal markets they depend on. Livestock foods also pose problems, she said.

The most nutritious foods—milk, meat, fish and vegetables—are also the most dangerous. These foods are also among the highest-value agricultural products in terms of generating cash incomes and are especially critical for the well-being of Africa’s women.—Delia Grace, ILRI

Food safety and aflatoxins

Next was an introduction to livestock vaccines for African livestock.
Suzanne Bertrand, deputy director general biosciences at ILRI, reported on ILRI and partner research to produce vaccines that protect African livestock against disease. ‘We want to simplify vaccine production and to understand how the pathogens that are causing African livestock diseases are developing resistance to the drugs used to treat the diseases.’

We want to work on these issues with the immunology and health departments of African universities.—Suzanne Bertrand, ILRI

Importance of animal health in Africa

 

ILRI scientist Polly Ericksen also spoke on ILRI-partner approaches to new research on pastoral systems in Africa’s drylands and Ethel Makila introduced the state-of-the art facilities and training opportunities in the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-ILRI Hub, endorsed by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) and located in Nairobi, Kenya. ILRI deputy director for research in integrated sciences, John McIntire, provided a synthesis of the morning’s discussions.

From the participants

In agriculture, the livestock sub-sector has been neglected. To meet the Millennium Development Goal of helping people rise out of poverty, we must invest more in smallholder livestock production.Yusuf Abubakar, executive secretary of the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria

‘When a research-based agricultural intervention is introduced to a community,’ said Mkhunjulelwa Ndlovu, of Zimbabwe’s Department of Agricultural, Technical and Extension Services, ‘it must be integrated into existing work and involve other stakeholders in development, especially governments, to ensure that use of the intervention is sustained over the longer term.

‘And remember’, Ndlovu said, ‘that the most active members in most communities are women; our interventions must suit their needs.’

We don’t feed ourselves and others with food alone; we also feed ourselves and others in intellectual ways. Capacity is key to driving innovation and change within societies; to build that capacity, we need to change people’s mindsets.—Mkhunjulelwa Ndlovu, Zimbabwe Department of Agricultural, Technical and Extension Services

ILRI's livestock for reILRI side event at AASW6: Group discussions

Group discussions at the ILRI side event on 15 Jul at the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6), in Accra, Ghana, 15-20 Jul 2013, organized by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) photo credit: ILRI/Ewen Le Borgne).

Recommendations
Those participating in this ILRI-hosted side session agreed on the need for livestock scientists to work in multidisciplinary teams and engage in ‘holistic’ research. Only by doing so, they said, would livestock scientists be in position to evaluate all components affecting the livestock sector and thus to help reduce the many risks and burdens faced by Africa’s millions of small-scale livestock producers.

The participants also agreed that it is the responsibility of livestock and other agricultural researchers to provide policymakers with evidence of how each component of smallholder farming links to others and how investing in one component can make a difference to the other components. Improving animal health, for example, can also improve the safety and nutritional value of animal-source foods.

Recommendations put forward at ILRI’s side meeting for enhancing the livestock sector’s contributions to Africa’s food security and poverty reduction include the following.

  • Ensure development of high-quality vaccines is supported by high-quality vaccination campaigns that involve local communities.
  • Incorporate indigenous knowledge to ensure research understands community realities and addresses community needs.
  • Boost the essential roles of continental and sub-regional approaches to development in the livestock research agendas.

AASW6
FARA’s 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6), in Accra, Ghana, includes marketplace exhibitions (15–20 Jul 2013), side events on sub-themes (15–16), a ministerial roundtable alongside a Ghana Day (17 Jul), plenary sessions (18–19) and a FARA Business Meeting (20 Jul). Follow the discussions on Twitter with the hashtag #AASW6 or visit the FARA AASW6 blog.

View all of the ILRI slide presentations: Livestock research for food security and poverty reduction, 15 Jul 2013.

Funders meet in Nairobi to align their vision and expectations for pro-poor biosciences research

Last week (13 Dec 2011), aid agencies that have funded Biosciences eastern and central Africa Hub (BecA Hub), a shared state-of-the-art research and capacity building platform hosted and managed by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) for the region, convened an all-day meeting at ILRI’s Nairobi headquarters. The purpose of the meeting was to harmonize support being provided to BecA and African biosciences and to explore sustainable models for building on the momentum that BecA and its supporters have created.

BecA’s main donors and stakeholders represented at this meeting were the:

  • Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID)
  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF)
  • Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA, which funded BecA in its beginnings)
  • New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD)
  • Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture.

This donor alignment meeting came appropriately on the heels of a recent first meeting of the CEOs of both NEPAD, a program of the Africa Union celebrating its tenth anniversary, and ILRI, one of 16 centres belonging to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), now celebrating 40 years of operation.

NEPAD’s Luke Mumba, who participated in the meeting, brought warm greetings from his CEO, Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, who had paid a recent first visit to ILRI and BecA and reported that NEPAD views BecA ‘as strategically important for affordable and accessible biosciences.’

‘BecA and NEPAD have a common vision to improve livelihoods of the poor,’ Mayaki said. ‘And NEPAD is now interested to play a bigger role in BecA’s programs, helping it to have even greater impact.’

ILRI director general Jimmy Smith thanked Mumba for his message and then framed the ensuing discussion in a talk and slide presentation. The following are excerpts from his talk.

Opening remarks by ILRI’s Jimmy Smith
‘The idea for a Biosciences eastern and Central Africa platform started when I worked for CIDA. It is an initiative I’ve supported since its inception. And I’ve been thinking about BecA since before I rejoined ILRI this November.

‘I liked BecA’s business plan but thought it lacked the “demand side”. I discussed this with Syngenta’s Marco Ferroni, and told him that it’s possible that different donors have different expectations of BecA. I want these to be aligned so that I can fulfill on them.

‘I’d like to frame our discussions today by providing first a bit of context.

Up until 2008 we all believed that food came from supermarkets. Then the world food market went topsy turvy. Prices rose and 100 million people were sent into poverty. Because prices for food were good for some poor farmers, 40 million people also rose out of poverty.

‘Since then, people are once again raising the old Malthusian theory—that massive geometric population growth in the face of arithmetic food growth is bound to lead to great social upheavals.

Here’s what we’re facing. There’ll be 2.5 billion more people by mid-century. We’ll need 70% more food produced to feed the additional population. Specifically, for example, we’ll need 1 billion more tonnes of cereal grains by 2050 for food, feed and biofuels. Most of the additional food will have to come from land already farmed.

‘And we are not starting from zero. There are already 1 billion people in the world who are hungry!

‘75% of people who are poor live in rural areas, but they are at the receiving end of investments of only 4% of official development assistance for agriculture.

‘Donor support to agriculture has fallen from 1980 to 2009. The trendline is inching upwards, but very slowly—and it is not matching the need.

‘In Africa, food production has been increasing but it still lags behind population growth. Africa has been meeting its food needs largely from importation, US$14-billion-worth of cereals each year. This is not sustainable. The continent cannot continue to spend so much on food if it is also going to invest sufficiently in other sectors, such as health and education.

‘The Ford and Rockefeller foundations together financed research that led to the ‘Green Revolution’. This was a group of donors, around a table, with a big vision, which was transformative. My question is, will the creation of BecA be as transformative as that of the Ford and Rockefeller vision was in the sixties? I think it could be.

What are the opportunities for BecA?
‘Every expert who has studied the food situation has said our best possibilities lie in the biotech sciences. People see biotech as a new frontier that has helped us in the past and can continue to do so in the future. We can now do things faster and with more precision. Look how quickly genomes can now be mapped.

This opportunity could be seized and be transformative again. Think if we could produce maize as efficiently as sorghum. What would happen to the maize belt in Africa? Can we create plants whose photosynthesis is more efficient? Can the native African Boran cow produce as much milk as the exotic Jersey?

‘The facility to conduct such science is brought to Africa through the BecA Hub at a scale that could have great impact. It is also here at a size that can greatly help build biosciences capacity on the continent. BecA Hub capacity can leverage the expertise of ILRI and the other centres of the CGIAR. It can catalyze and add value to the agenda of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme.

‘Challenges and questions remain. Can we, for example, develop an explicit agenda setting process that CAADP members will own and invest in? Can we transform our funding base to do transformative science working with CADPP, NARS, universities? Can we put in place an accountability framework that inspires confidence in our donors and partners? Can we bring about more harmonious relationships internally?’

View the slide presentation Jimmy Smith made: The BecA-ILRI Hub: Realizing the promise, 13 Dec 2011.

View a presentation ‘BecA hub research, facilities, and capacity building‘ by Jagger Harvey, Appolinaire Djikeng, and Rob Skilton

 

New program aims to spur state-of-the-art biosciences innovation to fight food insecurity, climate change and environmental degradation across eastern Africa

Bio-Innovate launch: Swedish Embassy's Bjorn Haggmark

Launched today at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the Bioresources Innovations Network for Eastern Africa Development (Bio-Innovate) program will support the fight against food insecurity in eastern Africa (photo credit: ILRI/MacMillan).

A new program that provides grants to bioscientists working to improve food production and environmental management in eastern Africa was launched today at the Nairobi headquarters of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

The newly established Bioresources Innovation Network for Eastern Africa Development (Bio-Innovate) Program—the first of its kind in Africa—provides competitive grants to African researchers who are working with the private sector and non-governmental organizations to find ways to improve food security, boost resilience to climate change and identify environmentally sustainable ways of producing food.

In its first three-year phase, the program is supporting five research-based projects working to improve the productivity of sorghum, millet, cassava, sweet potato, potato and bean farmers; to help smallholder farmers adapt to climate change; to improve the processing of wastes in the production of sisal and coffee; and to better treat waste water generated in leather processing and slaughterhouse operations.

In its second three-year phase, beginning mid-2011, Bio-Innovate will help build agricultural commodity ‘value chains’ in the region and a supportive policy environment for bioresource innovations.

The five-year program is funded by a USD12-million grant from the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida). Bio-Innovate is managed by ILRI and co-located within the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BeCA) Hub at ILRI’s Nairobi campus. Bio-Innovate will be implemented in Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

‘By emphasizing innovations to help drive crop production in the six partner countries, Bio-Innovate is working at the heart of one of the region’s greatest challenges—that of providing enough food in the face of climate change, diversifying crops and addressing productivity constraints that are threatening the livelihoods of millions,’ said Carlos Seré, ILRI’s director general.

An increasingly large number of poor people in the developing world are hungry, or, in development-speak, ‘food insecure.’ In sub-Saharan Africa, where agricultural production relies on rainfed smallholder farming, hunger, environmental degradation and climate change present a triple threat to individual, community and national development. In eastern Africa alone, over 100 million people depend on agriculture to meet their fundamental economic and nutritional needs.

Although some three-quarters of the African population are involved in farming or herding, investment in African agricultural production has continued to lag behind population growth rates for several decades, with the result that the continent has been unable to achieve sustainable economic and social development.

‘Bioresources research and use is key to pro-poor economic growth,’ says Seyoum Leta, Bio-Innovate’s program manager. ‘By focusing on improving the performance of crop agriculture and agro-processing, and by adding value to primary production, we can help build a more productive and sustainable regional bioresources-based economy.’

Bio-Innovate works closely with the African Union/New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AU/NEPAD) and its new Planning and Coordinating Agency, as well as with the councils and commissions for science and technology in eastern Africa, to encourage adoption of advances in biosciences. The program builds on AU/NEPAD’s Consolidated Plan of Action for Africa’s Science and Technology and the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP).

‘African governments are appreciating the importance of regional collaboration,’ says Ibrahim Mayaki, the chief executive officer of NEPAD. ‘Collaborations such as this, in science and technology, will enable the continent to adapt to the rapid advances and promises of modern biosciences.’

Bio-Innovate has already established partnerships with higher learning institutions and national agricultural research organizations, international agricultural research centres and private industries working both within and outside eastern Africa.

‘Bio-Innovate is an important platform for pooling eastern African expertise and facilities through a regional Bioresources Innovations Network,’ says Claes Kjellström, Bio-Innovate Sida representative at the Embassy of Sweden in Nairobi. ‘We believe this program will enable cross-sectoral and interdisciplinary biosciences research and enhance innovations and policies that will advance agricultural development in the region.’

The Bio-Innovate team is working with these partners to help guide development and adoption of homegrown bioscience policies in its partner countries and to spread knowledge of useful applications of bioscience. In the coming years, Bio-Innovate staff envision eastern Africa becoming a leading region in the use of biotechnology research and approaches for better food production and environmental management.

Some presentations from today’s launch:

More information about Bio-Innovate:
Short Blip TV clips

Three interviews of Seyoum Leta, Bio-Innovate program manager:

http://ilri.blip.tv/file/4882255/

http://ilri.blip.tv/file/4882101/

http://ilri.blip.tv/file/4881914/

Four interviews of Gabrielle Persley, senior advisor to ILRI’s director general:

http://ilri.blip.tv/file/4882211/

http://ilri.blip.tv/file/4882005/

http://ilri.blip.tv/file/4882481/

http://ilri.blip.tv/file/4882486/

Website:

http://bioinnovate-africa.org/

Pictures:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ilri/sets/72157624891160295/

Biosciences in and for Africa: A round-up of reports about the official opening of Nairobi’s Biosciences eastern and central Africa Hub

10BecA_Opening

Kenya President Mwai Kibaki receives flowers from Renee Njunge on his arrival at ILRI for the official opening of the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA) Hub on 5 November 2010. Looking on is Beth Mugo, the minister for public health and sanitation (photo credit: ILRI/Masi).

On 5 November 2010, Kenya President Mwai Kibaki officially opened the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA) Hub, a world-class biosciences research facility based in Africa and working for Africa.

Located at, and managed by, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi, Kenya, the BecA Hub provides a common biosciences research platform and related services and capacity-building to the science community in Africa and beyond.

The laboratory facility at the Hub brings to par Africa’s research capability with that of the world’s most developed countries. Africa’s scientists, students and global partners can now conduct advanced biosciences research, and get advanced training in biosciences, without leaving the continent. The Hub is a focal point for the African agricultural research community and its global partners.

The BecA Hub began in 2004 as part of an African Biosciences Initiative of the African Union/New Partnership for Africa’s Development. This initiative was part of a framework of Centres of Excellence for Science and Technology in Africa and the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme.

The Hub is supported by many partners and donors. The Canadian International Development Agency funded renovation of laboratories already existing at ILRI’s Nairobi campus as well as construction of new facilities. The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture is helping to fund the BecA Hub’s operations through 2014. Other investors are supporting specific research and training projects at the Hub.

The official opening at ILRI brought together government officials, donor representatives, researchers and the local community in a colourful celebration of the contributions agricultural research is making in addressing some of Africa’s most pressing problems.

For more information about the BecA Hub, visit hub.africabiosciences.org and www.ilri.org or email BecA-Hub@cgiar.org.

Watch a short video film about what young students and scientists think about working at the Hub: ‘The BecA Hub at ILRI—A new research facility in Africa and for Africa’.

Watch a 5-minute photofilm that captures the main messages and spirit of the opening ceremony last November (2010): ‘Opening ceremony – Biosciences eastern and central Africa research facilities’

See photographs of the opening ceremony on ILRI’s Flickr page: ‘2010 BecA Hub Opening’.

Read articles that appeared in the media about the opening:
Highlights from speeches at the opening of the Biosciences eastern and central Africa Hub at ILRI
New law to promote agricultural development, says Kibaki
New laws key in war on hunger: Kibaki

Listen to three of the speeches made at the opening ceremony:
Carlos Seré on the opening of the Biosciences eastern and central Africa Hub
NEPAD welcomes opening of the Biosciences eastern and central Africa Hub
Canadian High Commissioner celebrates birth of the Biosciences eastern and central Africa Hub

Highlights from speeches at the opening of the Biosciences eastern and central Africa Hub at ILRI

10BecA_Opening_CarlosSereBruceScottRomanoKiome

Carlos Seré, director general of ILRI; Bruce Scott, director of Partnerships and Communications at ILRI; and Romano Kiome, permanent secretary in Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture; in discussion at the official opening of BecA at ILRI (photo credit: ILRI/MacMillan).

Following are key highlights from speeches read on Friday 5 November 2010 during the official opening of the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA) Hub, which is hosted and managed by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), at its Nairobi headquarters and laboratories.

Mohammed Kuti, Kenya’s Minister for Livestock Development said ‘Kenya is proud to host BecA, a modern research facility for sub-Sahara Africa. I am gratified to learn that this facility has adopted an integrated research approach, using biosciences to address animal and plant research, human health as well as the sustainable use of Africa’s natural resources.’

His Excellency, David Collins, Canadian High Commissioner to Kenya said ‘Canada is pleased to celebrate the achievements that have been made in establishing this particular centre of excellence in bioscience in agriculture.

‘In May 2003, Canada announced a contribution of C$30 million to establish the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA) initiative in Kenya. BecA is the first of four networks of centres of excellence across Africa to strengthen Africa’s scientific and technological development. It allows eastern and central African countries to develop and apply bioscience research and expertise.’

‘BecA,’ said Collins, ‘is conducting important research that will help address key agricultural issues, including those facing small-scale African farmers, the majority of whom are women.’

He said Canada’s investment in BecA has supported the construction of new facilities and the renovation of existing facilities, including laboratories. With the completion of construction, the Hub is now in full operation, with a number of significant research programs under way, and quickly gaining regional and international recognition as a world-class facility to support capacity for biosciences in Africa.

‘The hub will enable African scientists and researchers play a major role in helping Africa meet its Millennium Development Goals by 2015 as a more productive and profitable agricultural sector is a critical component in the successful attainment of the MDGs,’ he added.

‘It is exciting to see the birth of a hub that will play a key role in ensuring that Africa drives its own agenda in regards to agriculture and strengthens the research pillar of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program.’ Collins said.

Carlos Seré, director general of ILRI, made the following remarks (full text).

‘It is indeed a very special honour to welcome you to the ILRI campus on the occasion of the opening of the Biosciences eastern and central Africa Hub.

‘Your Excellency, the statue you have just unveiled is an artistic representation of the double helix. The double helix is the recipe for life. Its chains of molecules, the DNA, encode the information that determines the inheritance shaping all living beings: plants, animals and microbes. This beautiful piece of art, produced here in Kenya, very aptly represents what BecA is about: understanding this code of life and using this knowledge to develop novel solutions such as livestock vaccines and improved crops.’

‘Much of this cutting-edge science could up to now only be undertaken in developed countries. The BecA-ILRI Hub now enables scientists from research institutions and universities across eastern and central Africa to come to Nairobi and undertake critical parts of their research with new tools and with support from colleagues with the requisite training and experience.’

‘How did this come about? NEPAD’s Science and Technology program and ILRI approached the Government of Canada in 2002 with a plan to refurbish ILRI’s laboratories and have ILRI provide, on behalf of NEPAD, a shared biosciences platform to provide African scientists with access to the most advanced facilities and equipment to conduct biosciences research of strategic importance for Africa’s development. This Hub forms part of NEPAD’s African Biosciences Initiative, which is creating a continent-wide network of shared biosciences research facilities.’

‘ILRI’s board of trustees and management team saw this as a logical evolution in its contribution to the continent’s development, responding on the one hand to the urgent need to boost biosciences capacity on the continent and on the other to the advantages of sharing such facilities. This is further driven by the fact that all agricultural research builds on the shared basic knowledge of biology, which underpins work in plants, animals and microbes. BecA is about exploiting this common body of knowledge to leapfrog the search for solutions. This is BecA’s unique contribution to Africa’s science endeavour.’

‘Beyond supporting the global community’s agenda of using livestock and livestock innovations as a pathway out of poverty, ILRI agreed to share its facilities with a wider array of African and international partners to better utilize this power of modern biosciences.’

‘Today we are witnessing the realization of that shared dream. Your Excellency, the strong support of the Kenyan Government to ILRI over the years has been critical to making this happen. Dr Romano Kiome, your Permanent Secretary of Agriculture and ILRI board member, passionately supported this initiaitive in its early days and chaired its first steering committee. Similarly, the financial and technical support of the Government of Canada  and many other development partners was absolutely critical. NEPAD’s vision and leadership in driving a continent-wide strategy for science and technology as a key building block for Africa’s development provided a strong case for creating BecA.

‘It is widely recognized that partnerships are critical to achieving significant impacts on the ground at the required speed. BecA is an innovative and complex partnership and a new way of operating across the boundaries of organizations. We are committed to working with all of you to make it flourish. To turn science into products for Africa, we will need to reach out to an even more diverse range of partners in the coming years. We thank your Excellency and the many other people and institutions who contributed to make BecA a reality.’

‘Your Excellency, this is a unique moment in history; Africa’s economy is growing faster than that of most Western economies. At the same time, we all know that there are serious concerns for food security globally and particularly on this continent. The BecA facility you are about to open today will deliver key elements to respond to the urgent demand for drastically increased agricultural productivity. It will provide practical hands-on experience in advanced biosciences to the next generation of African scientists. It will enable a wide range of African institutions, from research centres to universities to private-sector companies, to develop the technological solutions for today and tomorrow. We know there is a revolution going on in the biosciences worldwide. What has been lacking till now is effective grounding of this science in African realities. This will be done by Africans in Africa fully engaged in the global science community.’

Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki officially opened the BecA-Hub at ILRI on Friday 5 November. Read key highlights from the president’s speech on the following link: http://ilriclippings.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/kenya-president-mwai-kibaki-officially-opens-state-of-the-art-biosciences-facilities-at-ilris-nairobi-campus/

Listen to and watch the BecA official opening speeches on the following links:
Podcasts
Short videos

Biosciences for Africa: Fuelling africa’s agricultural revolution from within

BecA official opening, 5 November 2010

His Excellency Mwai Kibaki, president of Kenya, listens to Lydia Wamalwa, a plant molecular biologist, during the official opening of the Biosciences eastern and central Africa Hub on 5 November 2010; in the middle, Carlos Seré, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), which hosts and manages the BecA Hub, looks on (photo credit ILRI/Masi).

A world-class research facility, the Biosciences eastern and central Africa Hub, was officially opened in Nairobi, today, by Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki. This opening follows a scientific conference, Mobilizing Biosciences for Africa’s Development, which was held the day before at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), which hosts and manages the new facility.

The BecA Hub is open for use by researchers from Africa and around the world who are working to improve African agriculture. The BecA Hub puts Africa’s research capacity on par with some of the world’s most advanced research institutes.

‘With the help of our many partners and investors, the research undertaken here will have a lasting impact in developing agriculture in Africa,’ says Carlos Seré, director general of ILRI.

The BecA Hub at ILRI brings the latest cutting-edge technologies into the hands of African graduate students and scientists. The Hub serves as a science integrator, allowing researchers to work together across institutional, national and disciplinary boundaries. There are already some 150 scientists, technicians and students using the facility today. The BecA Hub intends to double this number in the next five years. Since 2007, almost 1500 scientists have participated in BecA Hub conferences, workshops and short-term training and 100 graduate students and 57 visiting scientists have undertaken research at the facility.

‘This facility,’ said Kibaki, ‘will be used to develop what Africa requires and will serve as a focal point for Africa’s scientific community to enable them to carry out research to increase agricultural productivity and food security.’

Lydia Wamalwa, a Kenyan plant molecular biologist at the International Potato Center (CIP), says, ‘I left Kenya to start my PhD research with CIP laboratories in Lima, Peru. The opening of these facilities in Nairobi allowed me to return home to work on our agricultural challenges here in Africa.’

While the BecA Hub was formed to directly serve 17 countries in eastern and central Africa, demand for its use has been so strong that it now serves Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Zambia, as well as other countries beyond the continent.

Research at the BecA Hub focuses on some of Africa’s biggest agricultural problems, including frequent droughts, devastating crop pests, diseases and weeds, lethal livestock diseases and unsafe foods.

‘We aim to help build Africa’s capacity by empowering its scientists to lead the coming African agricultural revolution from within,’ says the facility’s director, Segenet Kelemu, a leading Ethiopian bioscientist.

‘Many of the research findings generated so far look like they will find quick application in agriculture.’

African and international scientists are working here to develop drought-tolerant food crops. They are also working to improve food safety in Kenya by reducing the amount of its maize crop that is contaminated by aflatoxins, which cause cancer, stunt children’s growth, increase vulnerability to disease and, at high levels, kills. In addition, these scientists have developed and validated a new test for detecting bush meat being sold in Kenya’s butcheries, a diagnostic that can safeguard both wildlife populations and human health.

The BecA Hub began in 2004 as part of the African Union/New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD)’s African Biosciences Initiative, which was part of a framework of Centres of Excellence for Science and Technology and the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme. The Hub was also aligned with regional priorities set by the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa.

Aggrey Ambali, director of the Policy Alignment and Programme Development Directorate, NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency, says, ‘The BecA Hub offers Africa’s bioscientists the opportunity to conduct high-level research within the continent.’

The Canadian International Development Agency strongly supported the Hub by funding renovation of laboratories already existing at ILRI’s Nairobi campus and the construction of new facilities. The 10,000-square-metre laboratories already host many researchers from Africa’s national agricultural research systems and several centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research. The facilities are now complete and the BecA Hub is ready to operate at full capacity.

The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, a long-time supporter, is helping to fund the Hub’s operations through 2014. And many other investors are supporting specific research and training projects.

‘The BecA Hub at ILRI serves as a focal point connecting African science to fast-moving scientific superhighways in the rest of the world,’ says Knut Hove, chair of the ILRI Board of Trustees.

For example, BecA Hub graduate students have formed a group dedicated to bioinformatics. They are using the Hub’s high-performance computing platform, fast internet connectivity and bioinformatics expertise for ongoing peer-to-peer training. The group has organized international workshops and published a paper in a leading international journal. Some of these students have been awarded scholarships from the Australian Agency for International Development; Nescent, Durham, USA; and EMBL‐European Bioinformatics Institute, Cambridge, UK.

Romano Kiome, permanent secretary in Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture, says that Kenya is proud to host a facility that is allowing leading African scientists to return home to work on African problems.

‘The BecA Hub,’ says Kiome, ‘should help this continent become a breadbasket for the world.’

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For more information on the BecA Hub, visit http://hub.africabiosciences.org

Listen to and watch the BecA official opening speeches on the following links:
Podcasts
Short videos

Swedish International Development Agency grants US$10.67 million to improve African bioscience


Virus greenhouse at the ILRI Addis

Bio-resources Innovations Network for Eastern Africa Development (Bio-Innovate) announce USD10.67 million grant from the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida).

The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) today announced a SEK80 million (USD10.67 million) grant from the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) to support the set up of a multidisciplinary competitive funding mechanism for  biosciences and product-oriented innovation activities in eastern Africa (Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda).

The Bio-Innovate Program will focus on delivering new products through bioscience innovation systems involving a broad sector of actors, including scientists, the private sector, NGOs and other practitioners. The program will use modern bioscience to improve crop productivity and resilience to climate change in small-scale farming systems, and improve the efficiency of the agro-processing industry to add value to local bio-resources in a sustainable manner. Bio-Innovate will be user-, market- and development-oriented in order to make a difference on the ground in poverty alleviation and sustainable economic growth.

Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, Chief Executive Officer of the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency, says: “African governments have recognized the importance of regional collaboration in science and technology to enable the continent to adapt the rapid advances and promises of modern biosciences. In 2005, under the auspices of the Africa Union (AU) and NEPAD, African countries designed and adopted Africa´s Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action (CPA). The plan puts emphasis on improving the quality of African science, technology and innovation through regional networking and developing more appropriate policies. Biotechnology and biosciences are prioritized areas in the plan, as has been demonstrated by the work of a high-level AU/NEPAD African Panel on Biotechnology, whose findings are in the publication Freedom to Innovate—Biotechnology in Africa´s Development.”

An Africa-based and Africa-led initiative, Bio-Innovate will draw upon existing expertise and resources from Africa, while forming connections with both African and global institutions to add value to Africa’s natural resources and develop sound policies for commercializing products from biosciences research.

Bio-Innovate builds on the achievements of the BIO-EARN program funded by Sida from 1999 to 2009 and has been developed by a team appointed by BIO-EARN governing board. “The program will benefit a lot from the facilities available at the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA) Hub”, says Hassan Mshinda, Chair of the BIO-EARN Governing Board.

“We recognize the importance of the Bio-Innovate initiative to complement and strengthen the biosciences research in eastern and central Africa,” says Carlos Seré, Director General of ILRI. “We appreciate the support from Sida and are convinced that this innovative program will strengthen Africa’s capacity in using biotechnology for economic development.”

“Sida sees the Bio-Innovate Program as an important platform for pooling eastern African expertise through a regional bioscience innovation network, enabling cross-sectoral and interdisciplinary R&D and policy and sustainability analysis. The Bio-Innovate Program will be integrated into ongoing regional programs and structures and promote bioscience innovation in support of sustainable development in the region”, says Gity Behravan, Senior Research Advisor at Sida.

Notes:
New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD): The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) is a socioeconomic development program of the African Union (AU).  The objective of NEPAD is to stimulate Africa’s development by filling gaps in agriculture, health, education, infrastructure, science and technology. NEPAD explicitly recognizes that life sciences and biotechnology offer enormous potential for improving Africa’s development. Through NEPAD, African countries have committed themselves to establish networks of centres of excellence in biosciences. Four sub-regional networks have been established: the Southern African Network for Biosciences (SANBio), the Biosciences Eastern and Central Africa Network (BecANet), the West Africa Biosciences Network (WABNet) and the North Africa Biosciences Network (NABNet). A recent AU decision to integrate NEPAD into structures and processes of the AU gives the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency (NPCA) the mandate to facilitate, coordinate and implement the NEPAD agenda.

International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI): The Africa-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) works at the crossroads of livestock and poverty, bringing high-quality science and capacity building to bear on poverty reduction and sustainable development. ILRI is one of 15 centres supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). It has its headquarters in Kenya and a principal campus in Ethiopia. It also has teams working out of offices in Nigeria, Mali, Mozambique, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam and China. ILRI hosts the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA) Hub at the invitation of the African Union/New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AU/NEPAD), as part of the AU/NEPAD’s Africa Biosciences Initiative. The BecA Hub is part of a shared research platform on the ILRI campus in Nairobi. The BecA Hub has been established over the past two years, with strong support from the Government of Canada, through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), and ILRI. For more information, please visit our website: www.ilri.org

ILRI in Southern Africa

ILRI’s director general and new representative for Southern Africa visit the region to consult with partner organizations and get an update on work of the NEPAD and its establishment of regional African biosciences centres of excellence.

ILRI’s director general, Carlos Seré, and new representative for Southern Africa, Siboniso Moyo, visited Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe in early March 2006 to meet development partners in the region, including public- and private-sector organizations, non-governmental organizations, the secretariats of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and regional offices of other centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), to which ILRI belongs.

ILRI’s new representative in Southern Africa, Siboniso Moyo, called ‘Boni’, joined ILRI in February 2006. She will be based in Maputo, Mozambique. She is an animal scientist graduate of the University of Pretoria and has spent the last 21 years doing livestock research in Zimbabwe and the region.

On their mission, Moyo and ILRI Director General Seré met with John Mugabe, Executive Secretary of NEPAD’s Science and Technology Forum, and Aggrey Ambali, Coordinator of NEPAD’s African Biosciences Initiative, in Pretoria, South Africa. NEPAD’s African Biosciences Initiative, conducted under the NEPAD Science and Technology Programme, is establishing regional networks of centres of excellence comprising hubs and nodes.

Describing the purpose of their mission, Carlos Seré explained that ILRI plans to engage actively in the region’s science and technology agenda for agricultural research. He updated his NEPAD colleagues on the first NEPAD-initiated biosciences centre of excellence to be established, known as Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA) and based at ILRI’s laboratories, in Nairobi, Kenya. BecA’s new Network Director, Bruno Kubata, has been on the ground for 100 days, Seré reported, and is working to finalize the BecA implementation plan, with the view to implementing the Network’s research agenda at the BecA hub and nodes from mid-2006.

NEPAD’s John Mugabe said ILRI’s presence in the southern Africa region is welcome. He reported that all the NEPAD-initiated biosciences hubs, and their accompanying networks, are now in place. Besides BecA, based at ILRI’s headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, and encompassing biosciences nodes throughout eastern and central Africa, there are now three others established: one in Alexandria, Egypt for North Africa, a second in Dakar, Senegal, for West Africa, and a third based at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), in Pretoria, South Africa, for southern Africa. Mugabe said staff at all four hubs of these biosciences centres of excellence now need to develop links with each other and to exchange information.

The ILRI team also met with NEPAD’s Agricultural Advisor, Richard Mkandawire. ILRI’s Seré explained that a series of regional consultations were in progress in regard to the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). The main goal of CAADP, NEPAD’s Mkandawire explained, is to help African countries reach a higher level of economic growth through agriculturally led development that eliminates hunger, reduces poverty and food insecurity, and enables expansion of exports. A road map for achieving this has been developed by the NEPAD Secretariat to coordinate and facilitate the transition from framework to country-level implementation of the CAADP Agenda. The country-level implementation process seeks to align national agricultural sector policies, strategies and investment programmes with CAADP principles, facilitate better partnerships and alliances, facilitate reliable tracking of the level and efficiency of public-sector investments (target-10%) and growth rate (target-6%) of the sector. It is important, Mkandawire said, that the livestock agenda is tabled during the country round table discussions. CAADP’s technical arm is the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), an umbrella organization bringing together stakeholders in agricultural research and development in Africa with a secretariat in Accra, Ghana.