IITA’s labor of love, transforming African Agriculture
To love, or not to love, that is not the question! How to love…now that is real the question.
Since 1967, IITA has been on a journey of love, developing solutions to eradicate hunger by ensuring food security, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. The Institute has done this by championing research to increase crop yield and fight adverse conditions including drought, crop diseases, and invasive species.
The majority of people in Africa still live in rural communities and depend on what they grow to feed themselves. IITA’s work helps these smallholder farmers to have better crop quality to address their nutrition needs through biofortification—a process by which the nutritional quality of a food crop is enhanced through plant breeding.
With Africa’s population set to double by 2050, increasing food production has become a top priority, one to which IITA is fully committed. The Institute’s crop improvement programs not only focus on enhancing nutritional quality but also on increasing yield per hectare. Activities in this area ensure that smallholder farmers move from subsistence farming to producing enough crops to increase their income.
As IITA Ambassador, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo said during IITA’s 50-year celebration in 2017, “We must get whatever you produce out there to the farmers. And whatever it takes us to get your products to the farmers; I believe it’s worth it.” He added, “Getting the products to the farmers is almost as important as getting the products ready because the product that is not in the hands of the farmers is a wasted product.”
Over the years, IITA’s core function has progressed from just research for development and now encompasses multilevel technology delivery to ensure that people actually benefit from the results of the research. By focusing on turning farming-activities into viable business operations IITA is giving people the tools they need to generate a sustainable income from agriculture.
Helping to get more women and youths into agriculture is a key focus in much of the Institute’s research-for-development activities. This is an essential part of improving livelihoods as it means that the agricultural sector will continue to grow across sub-Saharan Africa, and that farmers and rural communities will increasingly benefit from greater food security and a stronger economy.
This year being the International Year of Plant Health further serves to highlight some of IITA’s most important work, which is concerned with producing and keeping crops healthy. The toll from pests, diseases, toxins, and invasive flora extends beyond plant health and poses a major health risk to humans as well as having a negative impact on the economy.
So this is how IITA expresses love. Loving farmers is indeed loving us all and loving the future as this ensures our food security now and for years to come. So with every new research, every improved variety delivered, every biocontrol agent developed, every good farming practice transmitted, IITA is unfolding a love letter, not just to the farmers but to the people of Africa, and indeed the rest of the world.