- Zambia is set to become the regional focal point for agricultural research support in southern Africa as the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) picked the country to host its Southern Africa Administrative Hub to assist its R4D activities in the region.
According to Dr Bryan Harvey, Chair of IITA’s Board of Trustees, the institute has, since 2004, been working on how to more effectively and efficiently establish itself in sub-Saharan Africa. To achieve this, IITA decided to focus its administrative support systems at three focal points: the West, East, and South.
The West will be covered by IITA-Nigeria, and the East by IITA-Tanzania. And after an extensive selection and deliberation process, the institute picked Zambia to be the focal point in the South.
The Southern Administrative Hub will support Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and, as needed, the DR Congo.
Dr Harvey adds that the selection of the country to cover Southern Africa was not easy, saying the IITA had to decide among Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa - all equally good candidates.
The move to have the Southern Administrative Hub in Zambia also effectively establishes IITA-Zambia.
Prior to this, IITA has had a long and productive history of working with the country.
In the early 1980s, IITA, partnering with the Zambian Agricultural Research Institute (ZARI) and other national partners, launched a massive programme to fight two of cassava’s deadliest pests - the mealy bug and the green mite - saving thousands of hectares of the crop. The successes achieved in the country were then replicated in other cassava-producing countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
To formalise its presence in Zambia, IITA’s Board of Trustees – the institute’s governing body – is meeting in Lusaka on 17-20 October to discuss ways to push IITA-Zambia partnership forward and the future of the hub, among other things.
The meeting will be preceded by an Open Forum on 15 October with the theme “The role of research and training in developing Zambia’s agricultural sector” co-organized with University of Zambia (UNZA). The forum coincides with the celebration of World Food Day and will be held at the university.
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