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New collaborative maize and legume project kicks off in Africa

A collaboration of national agricultural research programs has launched a new project to improve farm-level food security and productivity in eastern and southern Africa. The Sustainable Intensification of Maize-Legume Cropping Systems for Food Security in Eastern and Southern Africa (SIMLESA) is a four-year project with various partner institutions. It is led by CIMMYT and funded by the Australian Center for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

At the end of March, the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) hosted a SIMLESA country planning meeting. The goals of the meeting were to plan SIMLESA project activities, develop detailed work plans and budgets, and to identify additional possible partnerships. Abera Deressa, Ethiopia’s state minister of agriculture, opened the meeting and congratulated CIMMYT for being a model for partnerships and for enhancing agricultural research and collaborations in sub-Saharan Africa. He was followed by Adefris Teklewold, director of crops research at EIAR, who welcomed all the participants to the meeting.

Next was a presentation by John Dixon, ACIAR advisor. Dixon gave an overview of the project’s origins; discussed the role of ACIAR and other Australian institutions; and emphasized the importance of integration and innovative systems to achieve real impact and meet SIMLESA objectives. This was followed by an address on CIMMYT’s commitment to SIMLESA and the region, given by Bekele Shiferaw, director of CIMMYT’s Socioeconomics Program.

The meeting continued with SIMLESA program coordinator Mulugetta Mekuria. Mekuria presented a profile of the project and its current status, as well as expected outputs of the planning meeting. Several other participants also gave presentations.

A similar meeting was held during 19-21 February 2010 in Nairobi, Kenya. This was the joint country planning meeting for Kenya and Tanzania, hosted by the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI). More than 35 participants from Kenya, Tanzania, CIMMYT, ICRISAT, and the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA) attended the planning workshop.

Major SIMLESA partners include national agricultural research institutes from Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, and Mozambique, along with the Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development, and Innovation (QDEEDI), Murdoch University in Australia, ASARECA, ICRISAT, and the Agricultural Research Council of South Africa (ARC).