Director-General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Dr. Nteranya Sanginga, has outlined options through which the Institute can strengthen ongoing research and ensure sustainable planning as well as strategic resource mobilisation.
This is due to potential funding shortfalls arising from the global COVID-19 crisis.
Sanginga has more than 21 years of experience in agricultural research and development, particularly in applied microbial ecology, plant nutrition, and integrated natural resources management in Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia, having worked with the University of Zimbabwe, IITA, International Atomic Energy Agency in Austria, and Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility Institute of CIAT.
Before joining IITA as its big boss, he was the executive director of CIAT-TSBF from 2003 to 2011. As a research administrator and leader, he has strong skills in research management, situation analysis, resource mobilization and project management, developing partnerships and institutional linkages, institution building, managing complex structures and systems, and capacity building.
He played a major role in the creation of the Consortium for Improving Agriculture-based Livelihoods in Central Africa (CIALCA). He is a board member of the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel, administered by UNEP; advises the Global Environment Facility on sustainable land management global issues; is a member of the editorial board of Applied Ecology Journal; and an occasional editor for Soil Biology and Biochemistry, Biology and Fertility of Soil, Plant and Soil, Nutrient Cycling in agroecosystems, Soil Science Society of American Journal, African Crop Science Journal, and Nigeria Journal of Soil Science.
He has trained more than 30 PhD candidates at the National University of Congo, School of Agriculture and the University of Zimbabwe, who now hold leadership positions in their countries. Sanginga had worked at IITA from 1989 to 2002 in various capacities: principal scientist and head, soil microbiology unit; project coordinator; and multidisciplinary program leader.
He did his postgraduate training at IITA and his PhD in Agronomy/Soil Microbiology under a joint program between IITA and the Institut Facultaire des Sciences Agronomiques, Yangambi, DRC, in 1981─1984.
He has published more than 120 research articles in peer-reviewed international journals and was honoured with the International Foundation for Science Sven Brohult Award for contribution to agricultural and agroforestry research.
However, after strenuous consultations with different stakeholders, including staff and donors, Sanginga communicated the decisions during a virtual town hall meeting with Institute staff in all locations.
With analysis based on cash flow projections and scenario mapping, the DG explained some of the possible outcomes of different scenarios that include reduced budgets and financial deficits throughout this pandemic period.
Sanginga said that the Institute is devising ways to ensure that all staff keep their jobs and that the vision of transforming agriculture in Africa is sustained.
He reiterated that IITA staff continue to be the Institute’s most important assets and their health and well-being and that of stakeholders like farmers and farming communities depending on IITA’s research remain a priority.
The DG explained that the twin strategy of budget reduction and resource mobilization will be employed to ensure that the Institute comes out stronger and better from the global COVID-19 crisis.
According to Sanginga, IITA will review the financial situation every month and would consider several options, such as reduction of expenditures, staff contributing a percentage of their basic salaries to support the Institute’s finances over a seven-month timeline, starting in June 2020, savings on operational costs, and reimbursement of deductions made.
“The ongoing crisis has created huge opportunities for agriculture in Africa, and IITA is positioned to ensure that this does not lead to a food shortage crisis on the continent”, he says.
He added that the IITA Board of Trustees and Management have learned from past financial crises and have ensured that IITA will emerge stronger from these challenges.
Sanginga also said that the 2020 CGIAR financial modelling of the COVID-19 impact was also taken into account as part of the steps to address the shortfall in the Institute’s finances.