South Sudan, Africa’s newest country, is set to benefit from the project “Sustainable Intensification of Maize-Legume Cropping Systems in Eastern and Southern Africa” (SIMLESA), following fruitful discussions between project representatives and South Sudan’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MoAF). Project coordinator Mulugetta Mekuria and agronomist Fred Kanampiu met with George Leju, Director General of Research, Training, and Extension Services, Cirino Oketayot, Executive Director of Research, and Luka Atwok, maize breeder, in Juba on 6 June 2012. Mekuria gave an overview of the project’s vision, focus, and accomplishments to date and explained how SIMLESA’s experiences can reach and benefit South Sudan. The opportunity for collaboration was first discussed in Rwanda in October 2011 and since then Atwok has attended a series of SIMLESA-organized trainings and workshops.
Leju welcomed the proposal and thanked CIMMYT and the Australian Center for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR, which funds the project) for considering South Sudan as a beneficiary of the work. “SIMLESA resonates well with the MoAF strategic plan as it addresses the core challenges of the country, which has emerged from war,” said Leju. Oketayot highlighted South Sudan’s research structure, current priorities, challenges, and areas that need support, including an urgent need for capacity building. He also emphasized the importance of maize and legumes in the country’s farming systems and the potential impact of SIMLESA on these systems.
“ACIAR has availed initial funding for spillover activities,” said Mekuria. “The idea is to ensure that SIMLESA research results are quickly scaled out to countries like South Sudan and improve food security there.”
South Sudan scientists will join SIMLESA capacity building activities, attending core country and regional training events. “The project will also facilitate their travel to target country sites for activities like field days, so they get first-hand experience,” said Kanampiu. The first such capacity building initiative is planned for August this year, when CIMMYT will hold a workshop on basic agricultural research design and implementation. In addition to a very productive meeting, Leju and Oketayot were also delighted to receive an information pack full of background on SIMLESA, as well as shirts and baseball caps.