IITA LAUNCHES AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH CENTRE CONSTRUCTION
Facilities to contribute towards improving food security and reducing poverty among smallholder farmers in Zambia and the Southern Africa region
The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) officially launched building work on its multi-million kwacha regional agricultural research centre at Kabangwe on Thursday September 12, 2013.
The K100 million state-of-the-art Southern Africa Research and Administration Hub (SARAH) Campus will be the focal point of IITA’s research, training, outreach and business support, consolidating Zambia’s position as a regional hub for small-scale agricultural development and training.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Livestock Hon. Rogers Mwewa, on behalf of Hon. Dr. Guy Scott, Vice President of the Republic of Zambia, was on hand for the official ground-breaking and foundation stone-laying ceremony at the campus site on a 50 hectare plot of land within the Zambia Seed Company farm, some 25 km north of Lusaka City. IITA Director General Dr Nteranya Sanginga also attended the ceremony, along with senior management of the institute, members of the diplomatic community, donor representatives, IITA staff, and local and regional partners.
“The establishment of the research campus is aligned with the Zambian government’s vision of developing an efficient and competitive agricultural sector that assures food security as well as maximises the contribution of the sector to GDP, thereby making agriculture an engine for economic growth, development, and poverty reduction,” said Dr Sanginga.
Mr Mwewa said: “It is gratifying to see that government initiatives and programmes to foster national development are being augmented by local and international organisations. Today’s ground breaking ceremony is yet another testimony of the confidence organisations like IITA have in our nation’s development agenda and potential to uplift the lives of our people and make Zambia a prosperous nation.”
“Today’s ground-breaking ceremony comes at the right time when we are reforming agriculture in the country. My government realises that research and development initiatives such as this one have a positive impact on agricultural development. This is in line with my government’s vision of making Zambia the food basket of the region,” he added.
Once built, key facilities at the campus will include laboratories for natural resource management, agronomy and crop physiology, pest management, social sciences, plant breeding, biotechnology, geographic information systems, crop use and nutrition as well as a post-harvest facility. The hub will also have a tissue culture facility, modern greenhouses, processing facilities for producing high-value cassava-based products, a fabrication workshop for labor-saving agricultural machinery as well training facilities for students, producers, processors and other actors along the priority value chains. There will also be a Knowledge Center that has access to computers, high-speed internet and a powerful server and space for about 50 people. Student hostels, recreation facilities and secured parking area will complete the centre’s facilities. In addition, the long-term vision of IITA is to establish two testing sites in Zambia, covering the more humid zones (northern Zambia) and dry savanna (Zambezi valley) of southern Africa.
IITA’s total investment in the project– taking into account the cost of land, buildings, scientific equipment, utilities and establishing a research farm – is approximately K75-100 million (about US$14 -19 million). Construction of Phase 1 is expected to start by September 30, 2013, subject to obtaining building permits and approval of environmental assessment reports. Phase 2 will commence in January 2015.
The IITA Southern Africa Hub, established in 2010, is located in Lusaka and oversees and coordinates activities in the sub-region. In order to strengthen its operations in Southern Africa and to help realise the region’s agricultural potential, IITA is investing in establishing the new SARAH research and outreach centre in Kabangwe, north of Lusaka.
The SARAH campus will have fully automated power back-up systems, digital telecommunications facilities, computer-controlled environment control systems, and fibre optic-based broadband internet connectivity. Where possible, environment-friendly and efficient energy technologies will be used to run SARAH’s facilities.
IITA’S work in Zambia over the past 25 years has been guided by a Memorandum of Understanding on Scientific and Technical Cooperation, Research, and Training with the Zambian Government through the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL). Its overall objective is to strengthen the technical capacity of stakeholders working in the agricultural sector for the benefit of all Zambians especially small-scale farmers. To achieve this, the IITA works in close partnership with the Zambia Agriculture Research Institute, Golden Valley Research Trust, University of Zambia, National Institute for Scientific and Industrial Research, and other national entities including civil society organisations and the private sector (e.g. Zamseed, SeedCo, Greenbelt Fertilizers). IITA’s activities cover capacity building, crop breeding, seed systems, postharvest value-addition, input/ output markets, policy and institutional arrangements.
IITA’s achievements in Zambia over the years include the development of improved varieties of cassava and cowpea, establishment of community-based cassava processing centres, generation and promotion of better crop management technologies, establishment of community-based seed systems, and training of scientists and technicians who are contributing to the national research programme.