DDG-R4D visits IITA’s field research activities in Southern Africa Hub locations
From 23 to 31 March, IITA Deputy Director General-Research for Development (DDG-R4D), May-Guri Saethre, had a successful field visit to Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia in the Southern Africa Hub to appreciate the advancement of new research and technologies.
She appealed to scientists to take a more vigorous approach to deal with pests and diseases particularly on crops that are being evaluated for release, or that are already released to see if they maintain resistance or tolerance to disease pressure over the years.
The DDG-R4D was accompanied by Regional Director for Southern Africa, David Chikoye; the IITA Country Representative for Mozambique, Steve Boahen; and the IITA Country Representative for Malawi, Arega Alene, along with other scientists from Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia. She also interacted with various public and private sector partners including Afri-Nut, which processes and exports groundnut and is working with IITA to promote the use of Aflasafe by farmers to reduce aflatoxin contamination in groundnut.
The DDG also met with farmer groups including the Lifidzi Smallholder Farmers Association in Dedza. The group, which has a membership of 1500 farmers, is one of the seven smallholder associations to have deployed the Aflasafe technology in their groundnut fields. The group plants groundnut, maize, soybean, common bean, and potato.
Saethre visited various IITA trial sites across central Malawi and Angonia in Mozambique. At these locations, scientists explained activities being conducted on cassava breeding, clonal evaluation and preliminary yield trials, and uniform yield trials. She also visited soybean breeding, agronomy, and technology upscaling activities at various sites. The DDG-R4D also learned about the IITA-Malawi Soybean Seed revolving fund for the production and distribution of soybean basic seed through contractual arrangement with private seed multipliers under the Malawi Improved Seed Systems and Technologies (MISST) project.
While commending the great work IITA scientists are doing in the region, Saethre emphasized that more needs to be done on surveillance, monitoring, and screening of diseases, more specifically soybean rust and witches’ broom, cassava brown streak virus, and cassava mosaic virus disease to identify resistance or tolerance. Cassava mosaic disease (CMD), cassava brown streak disease (CBSD), soybean rust, cowpea viruses, and banana bunchy top virus are some of the diseases prevalent in Southern Africa that cause major yield losses.
From Malawi, the DDG-R4D continued her visit to Zambia where she was received by a team of scientists. Here she visited different research and outscaling activities such as Aflasafe, cowpea, cassava, soybean, fall armyworm compact in TAAT, and the youth program, as well as available research facilities at Kabangwe station.
The key highlight of her visit in Zambia was participation in a field day attended by over 70 stakeholders representing the donor community, seed companies, graduate students, and government officials. During the tour of research activities, she noted the impacts of drought and heat, which has been experienced in the southern half of the country, where most of the maize and soybean had dried up. Officially opening the field day, she reminded the stakeholders of the serious impacts of climate change, manifested as drought, heat, and invasion of new pests such as fall armyworm. She encouraged partners to embrace new technologies and diversify into more climate smart crops such as cassava and cowpea.
Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe have been affected by the worst tropical cyclone to hit Africa where more than 1000 people died. Agriculture plays a huge role in the livelihoods of farmers in these countries. IITA’s research work is greatly appreciated in this region.