IITA names Kalambo station “The President Olusegun Obasanjo Research Campus”
IITA has named its research station in Kalambo, Democratic Republic of Congo, after former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo in an event that took place on 8 October.
The IITA Board of Trustees decided to name the station after Obasanjo in recognition of his contributions to agricultural research throughout Africa. This was also an acknowledgement of his sacrifices in DR Congo, made when he served as part of the UN troops mandated to bring peace to the country after independence in 1961.
Chief Obasanjo is also spearheading the “Zero Hunger Initiative” in Nigeria that IITA is helping to implement and which has strong relevance to DR Congo.
In his acceptance speech, Obasanjo appreciated DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi for making it to the event and thanked IITA Director General, Dr Nteranya Sanginga and the BoT for the honor and for its tremendous work in the Institute. “I am honored to be associated with such a successful research initiative in Africa,” he said.
In an exclusive interview with Radio IITA Senior Correspondent Dajie Odok, the honoree said he is glad to be back in the area for such a heart-warming event as he recalled the first time he had been in that country for a peace-keeping mission.
The research station, now called President Olusegun Obasanjo Research Campus, has been operational in DR Congo since 1974 as a project site. In 2011, the IITA BoT upgraded the site and made it a focal point of the Institute’s regional hub for natural resource management in the Great Lakes Region.
In his speech at the inauguration, Sanginga explained that the essence of establishing the research station is the dedication of IITA and its partners to the mission of fighting hunger and poverty in Africa, which would help boost agricultural productivity in DR Congo and the region.
He said the station is a symbol of IITA’s dedication and commitment towards building the research and development capacity in DR Congo and the Great Lakes Region.
He also reiterated the importance of research to agricultural transformation while citing the progress made by IITA and its partners.
Also speaking at the inauguration, DR Congo President Tshisekedi thanked Chief Obasanjo for “championing agriculture across Africa” and African Development Bank (AfDB) President, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, for his support to IITA, describing the initiative as an “obvious illustration of regional integration.”
He said AfDB is expected to fully play its role in helping DR Congo boost the capacity to process agricultural products through the industrialization plan he is rolling out. He also congratulated Sanginga for having established the IITA Kalambo station, with his personal means, pointing out that the facility is expected to build youth potential in agribusiness and help stimulate agricultural development in the region.
The newly inaugurated campus offers modern research facilities for impact-focused agricultural research for development, which includes a soil and plant analytical laboratory, a soil microbiology unit and molecular lab, a product and processing unit, and training facilities.
It also serves neighboring countries in the region including Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda.
Other dignitaries at the event include wife of the honoree, Mrs Bola Obasanjo; AGRA Chairman and former Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn; Former and current Ministers and Government officials of DRC and other countries; World Bank Representative, Omar Lyasse; IITA Board Chair, Amos Namanga Ngongi; traditional chiefs; and others.