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24.03.2009 General News

‘Switzerland will not cut support to agric research in sub Saharan Africa’

By Godwin Atser

The Global financial meltdown will not compel Switzerland to cut funding for agricultural research in sub-Saharan Africa via the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, which is part of the Swiss support to the CGIAR System, the Switzerland Ambassador to Nigeria, Niger and Chad, Andreas Baum has said.

Baum said this after holding talks with top management officials of IITA including the Deputy Director-General, Support, Dr. Lakshmi Menon and IITA Director, Research for Development, Dr. Robert Asiedu in Ibadan.

“There is global financial crisis but that does not mean cutting funds to support IITA. We will continue to support agric research in sub Saharan Africa,” Baum said.

The global financial crisis has put several developed countries into recession, sending signals that donors might cut back funds for research.

As a donor, Switzerland has been supporting IITA in the fight against hunger and poverty in sub Saharan Africa.

Funds received from Switzerland have aided research in various ways including solutions to diseases and pests plaguing Africa's staples such as cassava, banana, plantain, cowpea, yam, maize and soybeans.

“I am happy that the Switzerland government is supporting this laudable project. I am impressed by what I have seen especially the work on improving the productivity of agriculture in sub Saharan Africa,” Baum said.

IITA Deputy Director-General, Dr. Lakshmi Menon said IITA is Africa's leading research partner in finding solutions to agricultural problems and crop improvement.

She said the institute's work had contributed in improving rural livelihoods, food security and incomes in sub Saharan Africa.

While commending the Swiss government for her support over the years, Menon cited IITA's biological control of cassava mealy bug and cassava mite as some of the breakthroughs carried by the institute.

“These are major breakthroughs that actually saved Africa's cassava—a major staple in Africa,” she said.

On the conservation of Africa's genetic resources, IITA Director, Research-for-Development, Dr. Robert Asiedu, said the institute's genebank was a repository of genetic resources of Africa's major staples.

He said the conservation of the plant's genetic resources was important for crop improvement, adding that the institute would need more investment in the procurement of modern conservation tools.

Asiedu said as an international research organization, IITA had been working with different national research partners in Africa.

He said that the institute's success was a result of partnership with various stakeholders including non-governmental organizations, NARS and farmers among others.

Baum toured IITA's facilities including the biotech lab, genebank, and cassava processing unit.