“If we are going to make a real difference in farmers’ lives, agricultural research must not only be responsive to the needs of the times but more importantly it should be able to find its way into farmers’ fields and their families’ homes. Research should never stay on the shelves – it should result in concrete outputs that would benefit farmers in Africa wherever they may be. This is my vision and sincere hope for this project.”
These were the words of Honorable Robert Sichinga, Zambia’s Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives, as he launched the Southern Africa component of the African Development Bank (AfDB)-funded ‘Support for Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops (SARD-SC)’ project during a ceremony held at the Cresta Golf View Hotel in Lusaka, Zambia on Monday, 16 April.
He also opened the two-day planning workshop for Southern Africa partners and stakeholders of the project.
“At this day and age of modern technologies, it is mind boggling to still see farmers working the land with hoes, which our forefathers have been using since time immemorial.
This is unacceptable given the advances in agricultural research that we have all been talking about,” added the Minister.
“Apart from increasing crop productivity, I encourage all the experts and scientists gathered here to also make it a priority to find practical ways to ease the burden of physical labor of our farmers in tilling the land. We should strive to free the farmers from carrying a heavy hoe over their shoulders when going to their fields,” he emphasized.
“I hope that at the end of this project, we would see concrete results in farmers’ fields and in farmers’ lives,” he stressed.
In explaining why the AfDB-funded SARD-SC, Philip Boahen, Principal Country Program Officer based at the Bank’s Zambia Country Office, said “we saw the need to go back to the root – back to basic research if we are to effectively address the more upstream problems of rural poverty and food insecurity.”
“This is the Bank’s first sortie into agricultural research and development, and we are delighted and fortunate to have organizations such as IITA on board to make sure that the objectives of SARD-SC are successfully met,” Boahen added.
Chrysantus Akem, IITA scientist and SARD-SC Project Coordinator, indicated that the planning workshop for the Southern Africa partners of the project aimed to familiarize participants with SARDSC’s activities, implementation arrangement, plan of work, budget, and coordination arrangements. Based on these, the crop working groups developed workplans for the region to be undertaken at the initial stages of the project.
Approved in 2012, the SARD-SC project is a US$63.24-million funded initiative whose overall goal is to enhance food and nutrition security and contribute to poverty reduction in 20 of AfDB’s low-income Regional Member Countries. Specifically, it aims to enhance the productivity and income of four priority value chains – cassava, maize, rice, and wheat – on a sustainable basis.
The project is being co-implemented by three Africa-based CGIAR member centers: IITA, AfricaRice, and ICARDA. IITA is also the project’s Executing Agency.