Written by Kevin Wafula
The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has inaugurated its Central African hub with the commissioning of an official building in Kinshasa that will cover the west provinces of DR Congo and an office in Bukavu, in South-Kivu that will serve the entire Great Lakes subregion.
The Central African hub is the fourth hub established by the Institute. The East African hub has its operations in Tanzania; Southern African hub in Lusaka, Zambia; while the West African hub is based in Nigeria. The West African hub also hosts the headquarters of the Institute in Ibadan.
The hub concept aims to accelerate the Institute’s response to the different opportunities and threats to food security in sub-Saharan Africa.
At the inauguration of the hub, IITA Director General, Dr Nteranya Sanginga, said that the choice of DR Congo “is important because of the country’s agricultural potential, which serves as a focal point for research for countries of the Central African region.”
According to him, the inauguration of the building in Kinshasa is part of the Institute’s strategy for efficient delivery of research outputs and to ensure more effectiveness.
In Central Africa, IITA will work with national agricultural research systems such as Institut National pour l’Etude et la Recherche Agronomique (INERA), universities, nongovernmental organizations, farmers and the private sector.
Dr Sanginga said the establishment of the hub would also consolidate the long-time collaboration between IITA and partners in that region.
For instance, since 1974, IITA has been contributing in strengthening the capacity of INERA. Both institutions have been involved in the breeding of disease-resistant varieties of cassava against major diseases such as cassava mosaic virus. Such collaborations and many more will continue in the years ahead.
The Prime Minister of DR Congo, His Excellency Augustin Matata Ponyo, commended IITA for establishing the hub in DR Congo. He expressed optimism that with research, DR Congo could tap its agricultural potential for economic growth and development, and could feed the entire sub-Saharan Africa.
In addition to improved varietal development, IITA and INERA research activities will focus on natural resource management to boost crop production and to improve livelihoods.
Dr Sanginga was accompanied by Prof. Paul Mafuka (INERA Director General and IITA Board member) and Dr Nzola Mahungu (IITA DRC Country representative).