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Cultivating CIMMYT’s links with Africa: A meeting with the African Development Bank

On 10 February 2012, CIMMYT’s Director General, Thomas Lumpkin, visited the headquarters of the African Development Bank (AfDB) in Tunis, Tunisia, accompanied by Wilfred Mwangi, Liaison Officer for Africa, and Karim Ammar, Head, Durum Wheat Program. In his meeting with the Bank’s President, Donald Kaberuka, Lumpkin presented CIMMYT’s major projects and activities on wheat and maize research and development in Africa, including breeding, biotechnology, agronomy, socioeconomics, seed systems, and human resources development. “The AfDB President was keenly interested in biotechnology, and we discussed examples of successful projects and the potential benefits for Africa,” said Lumpkin.

MG_4329The group also discussed the MAIZE CRP and CIMMYT’s strong partnership with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). Institutional linkages such as these can be very beneficial to African smallholder farmers, as demonstrated by the major projects accomplished by CIMMYT’s Africa offices, such as Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA), Sustainable Intensification of Maize- Legume Cropping Systems for Food Security in Eastern and Southern Africa (SIMLESA), Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA), Insect Resistant Maize for Africa (IRMA), and Improved Maize for African Soils (IMAS). “CIMMYT has had an enormous impact on wheat in Africa. Most cultivars are CIMMYT derived and many wheat scientists from African NARS have been trained at CIMMYT,” said Ammar.

It is hoped that these successes can continue, given the strength of the CIMMYT cadre of researchers currently based in Africa. Of the 38 African-based IRS, 29 are African scientists from seven different countries, and the directors of both the Socioeconomics Program and the Global Maize Program are based in Nairobi. “Africa has become the nucleus for maize research and development of CIMMYT,” stated B.M. Prasanna, Director of the Global Maize Program.

Throughout the meetings, CIMMYT’s desire to assist West African countries in maize and wheat production was expressed. CIMMYT is currently leading the WHEAT CRP in conjunction with the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), an initiative with a strong focus on Africa. Lumpkin emphasized the need for this CRP to also address wheat needs in African countries which are not traditionally wheat growers, but where wheat consumption may be rapidly increasing. According to FAO, Algeria’s bread and durum wheat imports rose 41.5 percent to a record 7.42 million tons in 2011, and the continent’s most populous nation, Nigeria, imports 4 million tons of wheat per year according to the USDA, with annual per capita wheat consumption currently about 25 kg.

Follow-up activities with the AfDB will be co-ordinated by Mwangi, who has already had further meetings with the Bank’s executive staff. “It was an excellent meeting and gave us the opportunity to highlight the major investments CIMMYT is making in Africa”, said Mwangi. The meeting formed part of a series of CIMMYT activities in Tunisia, Kenya, and Nigeria, designed to strengthen ties with local partners, donor organizations, and CGIAR institutions in the region.