TAAT pre-appraisal meeting focuses on technology outscaling for African agricultural transformation

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the African Development Bank (AfDB), held a project pre-appraisal meeting for the Bank’s new initiative, Feeding Africa or the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) program on 18-30 July 2016, at the IITA headquarters in Ibadan, Nigeria. The TAAT program is a critical strategy for transforming agriculture on the continent that would ensure that Africa is able to feed itself through agriculture.

The appraisal meeting took place in two batches to allow for closer interaction. The first leg of the meeting was held from 18 to 23 July, involving all participants within the following Priority Intervention Areas (PIAs): Sahel, Savanna, Cassava, and Rice. The second leg of the meeting took place from 25 to 30 July, involving all participants within the following PIAs: Tree plantations, Horticulture, Wheat, and Inland fish aquaculture.

The appraisal mission brought together all TAAT participating CGIAR centers and non-CGIAR institutions and NARES partners that have submitted technologies that are ready to be scaled up/out for consideration under the program. They jointly reviewed and finalized activity plans and budgets to undertake the scaling out of the proven technologies.

While welcoming the participants to the capacity-filled IITA Conference Center, Dr Ken Dashiell, Deputy Director General, Partnership for Delivery, said “TAAT is very real and about delivering technology, and how to bring proven technologies to millions of people on the continent. This will not happen unless we employ a lot of thinking and strategies.” He implored all to think big on “how we can stop the importation of food and vegetables and export refined cocoa products.”

Dr Jonas Chianu, Principal Agricultural Economist, AFDB and TAAT Task manager, in his opening remarks said the TAAT program would leverage on the other AFDB-sponsored projects and advised the participants “to focus on a few technologies that can have impact on and change the livelihoods of the people.” During the course of the meeting, he emphasized and reiterated the need to transfer technology to the local farmers to increase their productivity and transform agriculture in Africa. “We are concerned about ‘downloading’ technology to the people to transform agriculture. Anybody who knows or has anything that has worked for technology outscaling, should bring it forward even if it is from outside Africa. We need to look for models that can work in the continent. We will do whatever it takes to ensure transformation in agriculture in Africa in order to achieve food security, job creation, and impact. So, organizations like FARA and IFPRI should ensure that their policies can actually ‘download’ technology to the end users.”

Thereafter, he gave a brief overview of TAAT. He said the overall goal of TAAT was to execute a bold plan to achieve rapid agricultural transformation across Africa through raising agricultural productivity along eight Priority Intervention Areas. These interventions are: Self-sufficiency in Rice production; Cassava Intensification; Food Security in the Sahel; Transforming African Savannas into Breadbaskets; Revitalizing Strategic Tree Plantations; Expanding Horticulture; Increasing Africa’s Wheat Production; and Achieving self -sufficiency in Inland Fish production.

The ten-day meeting brought together many potential partners to discuss the various proven technologies and innovations retained for deployment, and their critical roles in the actualization of the program. Several presentations from a number of CGIAR centers, NARES, and the leaders of the Priority Intervention Areas (PIAs) dwelt on the proven technologies and innovations retained for deployment, based on  important rationales- including the value addition and synergy of those retained, how the “proven’ technology/innovations propositions from different partners (CG centers, NARS, the private sector, Advanced Research Institutions, Universities etc) fared and key recommendations in relation to the selected technologies and innovations. The highly interactive meeting covered all the 2 value chains and different shades of presentations from leaders of the eight PIAs and representatives of CGs centers on their proposed roles in the Bank’s new agricultural initiative. Their submissions were critically interrogated by the audience; as a result, great attention was paid to key recommendations elicited from the exhaustive deliberations. Some of the notable presentations at the meeting were on the roles of AGRA, FARA, and partners on capacity development and outreach, IFPRI& Partners in Policy support services and Project Intervention Areas of cassava intensification, rice sufficiency, and wheat value chains and procurement.

The role of the private sector, non-governmental organizations, agricultural extension, scaling up, and mechanisms were not left out in the scheme of things. A full spectrum of private sector partners will be utilized in all the PIAs in areas of input manufacturers, agro-industrial, processors, agribusiness development specialists, credit services, and insurers. “Our focus on the private sector is to ensure the sustainability of the TAAT project activities and gains even when the project has ended,” said Dr Chianu.

In an interview with Dr Chrys Akem, SARD-SC Project Coordinator and organizer of the meeting, he articulated the importance of TAAT to the ordinary farmer thus: “Africa spends billions of dollars importing food we can produce. And the CG centers have over the years generated different technologies that are sitting on the shelves. We need to bring these technologies and better yielding varieties of crops to farmers to increase productivity and teach them how to add value to their produce. Our vision in TAAT is to produce more food, and reduce poverty among farmers and importation of food in the continent. We are striving to reverse the import trend and become a net exporter in some of the value chains we are focusing on.”

The pre-appraisal meeting took place almost three months after the successful launch of the TAAT program initiative in April 2016, which was attended by various stakeholders and potential partners from national agricultural research and extension systems (NARES), CGIAR centers, international organizations, and the private sector.

TAAT will be implemented in 35 Regional Member Countries (RMCs) of the Bank and along 24 specified value chains.

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