Written by Adeleke Mainasara
Twenty African countries will benefit from the African Development Bank- funded initiative known as the Support for Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops (SARD-SC), but the multiplier effect of the project is expected to affect other regional member countries in the continent.
Scientists, other stakeholders and policy makers say the initiative will help narrow the yield gap facing Africa’s strategic crops even as most countries on the continent embark on agricultural reforms.
“But the project will have a positive spin off effect in the other member countries,” according to the Project Coordinator, SARD-SC, Dr Chris Akem at the country launch of the project in Abuja which ended today.
Direct beneficiaries of the intervention include farmers in Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, DR Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
“SARD-SC is a huge opportunity for Nigeria to bridge the yield gap through increased local production,” says the Executive Secretary, Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), Prof Baba Yusuf Abubakar.
Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture, Dr Akin Adesina, who was represented by Dr Martins Fregene also welcomed the project, noting that it would compliment ongoing efforts to transform agriculture.
Maize, cassava, rice, and wheat are considered crops of strategic importance for Africa.
In Nigeria for instance, about 20 per cent of households consume maize at different times, according to ARCN. The crop is consumed by millions of people as either roasted or boiled and eaten off the cob or as dish prepared from raw or fermented flour, says Dr Sam Ajala, IITA-SARD-SC Maize Commodity Specialist. The country also imports about 3.4 million metric tons of wheat annually to meet its demand. Rice importation is also huge while cassava is both a food security and cash crop.
Prof. Abubakar said that the project would provide leverage for ongoing reforms especially the Agricultural Transformation Agenda.
Explaining the scope of the SARD-SC, the Deputy Director General (Partnerships & Capacity Development), Dr Kenton Dashiell, said the project has several components including agricultural technologies and innovations generation, agricultural technologies and innovations dissemination, and sustainable capacity development.
To achieve the set goals, Dr Dashiell emphasized partnerships among various stakeholders—farmers, input dealers, farmers, researchers, consumers etc.
He stressed that the overall objective was to enhance food and nutrition security, and contribute to poverty reduction.
Approved in 2012, the SARD-SC project is a US$ 63.24 million funded initiative that is being co-implemented by three Africa-based centers under the CGIAR namely: the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Africa Rice Center, and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas. IITA is also the Executing Agency of the project.
The Country Representative (Nigeria), African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Ousmane Dore said the project would contribute towards addressing the current shortfall in food supply in the continent by working across the full value chain of each crop and addressing both food costs and employment creation. According to him, through the value chain approach, SARD-SC will also contribute to crop-livestock integration based on the use of the commodities’ by-products.