ECOWAS Chief Tasks IITA On Opportunities in West Africa

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The visiting ECOWAS delegation with IITA Staff

The Director of Agriculture and Rural Development of ECOWAS, Alain Traore, has challenged the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) as a centre of knowledge, to take advantage of the many opportunities that abound in West Africa.

Traore and other members of staff visited the Abuja station of IITA to familiarise themselves with the activities of the Institute in the Nigerian capital.

The visit is the first despite both offices being in Abuja for many years.

Head of IITA-Abuja, Gbassey Tarawali, and the scientists at the station organised an interactive session for the ECOWAS delegation to showcase the different projects operating there.

Tarawali in his welcome remarks expressed delight about the visit, the first since the inception of IITA Abuja Station in 1991. He said he hoped the visit would facilitate increased collaboration between IITA and the ECOWAS Directorate of Agriculture.

Tarawali, who also coordinates the ATASP-1 Outreach Programme, highlighted the objectives of the project and its key achievements.

ATASP-1 has developed critical infrastructures such as the construction of three Youth Training and Crop Processing Centres in Abuja, Kano, and Onne, as well as built three world-class modern tissue culture laboratories in Ibadan, Abuja, and Onne.

The Africa Yam Project leader, Patrick Adebola, spoke about enhancing yam breeding in West Africa to increase productivity and improve quality.

He also emphasized some of the support required to strengthen the IITA yam breeding programme. IITA Yam Seed Systems Specialist, Beatrice Aighewi, also gave a presentation on the development of yam seed systems in Nigeria and Ghana.

Dr Patrick Adebola is a Plant Breeder/Geneticist. He joined IITA-Abuja, Nigeria, as Project Leader of AfricaYam. Dr Adebola oversees and coordinates the project activities in the four target countries. He obtained his BSc, MSc and PhD degrees from the University of Ilorin, Nigeria in 1987, 1990, and 2003 respectively.

He also obtained a master’s degree in Business Leadership (MBL) from the Graduate School of Business Leadership, the University of South Africa in 2014. Dr Adebola has over 20 years’ experience in plant breeding research and community engagement in West and Southern Africa and had managed and supervised several international projects and networks.

Before joining IITA, Dr Adebola worked for the Africa Rice Center as the Deputy Director-General for the Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI), Liberia in 2016. He was a Research Team Manager and Head of the Plant Breeding Division at the Agricultural Research Council, ARC-VOPI, South Africa (2005–2016).

He also previously worked for the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria as a research scientist and rose to the position of Assistant Chief Research Officer and Program Manager Biotechnology (1993-2004). He was a postdoctoral fellow (2004-2005) in the Department of Botany, University of Fort Hare, South Africa and a recipient of the Rothamsted International Postdoctoral Fellowship hosted by the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA), Sand Hutton, York, United Kingdom during 2008-2010.

The West Africa Commercialisation and Agribusiness Manager, Peter Okomoh, spoke on aflatoxin and its impact, and the work on Aflasafe™ that is fighting this scourge. He highlighted the strategic direction and progress of the Aflasafe Technology Transfer and Commercialisation (ATTC) project and underscored the project goals, objectives, and implementation approach.

Zacchaeus Isuwa, an Agripreneur, gave the final presentation on IITA Youth in Agribusiness initiatives, emphasizing the importance of the program as a potent vehicle for youth empowerment and employment in Africa.

In his response, the ECOWAS Director of Agriculture thanked the Head of Station and the scientists for the warm welcome and detailed presentations. He commended the Institute for its achievements, noting that the next hurdle is how to take these results from the research labs to the end-users.

Director Traore also noted that the existing MoU between the two organisations should serve as a common ground for achieving impact.

Tarawali assured him that IITA would look for opportunities of working on collaborative initiatives.

The delegation embarked on an extensive tour of the station, stopping over at the yam screenhouse, the yam, maize, cassava, soybean, and cowpea demonstration plots, and the IYA fish ponds.

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