Key themes - progress towards outputs and impact
Africa Country Programmes
Each of the Africa Country Programmes
is working to improve local innovation capacity to increase use of research and other types of knowledge. This is primarily being done through establishing and facilitating a number of mostly agricultural commodity-based innovation platforms , and working to influence national policies. The ultimate objective in most cases is to transform smallholder farming and associated value chains into viable and sustainable businesses. The focus and key outputs of the six African Country Programmes for this year are summarised below:
led by Nobel Moyo
- Pig marketing: linking pig producers to pork processors through creation of a more formalized pig marketing system. RIU Malawi has succeeded in bringing pig producers and processors closer together, including informing producers of quality standards and numbers of pigs demanded by processors; brokering agreements between the two parties; providing grants and technical inputs to create decentralized pig market facilities; training farmers in improved production practices; and providing input to relevant policies.
- Fish farming: improved access to fingerlings (young fish) of improved strains of Oreochromis shiranus, a species of tilapia endemic to Malawi. RIU's fish farming platform, which brings together stakeholders including researchers, input suppliers, commercial fish farmers, fish farmer associations, NGOs, government and academics, is now recognized as the implementing body for the 2006 Presidential Initiative for Aquaculture Development (PIAD). Specific outputs include providing support to increase capacity of three private sector hatcheries to produce fingerlings of the improved strains, and developing hatchery guidelines and a marketing strategy for fingerlings and table fish. As a result, round 5 million quality fingerlings of the improved strain of O. shiranus will be produced by 2011; 4000 farmers will increase their incomes by accessing high-quality fingerlings with the potential of producing up to 400 tonnes of table fish worth US$1.8 million.
- Legume seed supply: establishing a functional seed supply system for improved varieties of beans soybeans and groundnuts. RIU Malawi has brought together the key actors in legume value chains. Specific activities include increasing production of seed of improved varieties of legumes. This was achieved by involving both commercial farmers and small-scale farmers associations in the multiplication of breeder and basic seed by brokering agreements between these producers and plant breeders, and providing training in seed production techniques. In the process the Malawi government's policy has been changed: this now allows farmers to multiply legume breeder seed, which was previously not permitted.
- Cotton: improved productivity and marketing of cotton. RIU's cotton platform is in the process of registering as a legally recognized entity, the Cotton Development Trust, to ensure its long-term sustainability. Specific activities include establishing demonstrations throughout the country to showcase recommended technologies and practices to boost cotton productivity. This year the cotton platform facilitated discussions with the government to establish the buying price for cotton in a consultative manner. This was a great improvement on the previous year when the government unilaterally fixed the price at a level far above what the ginners would pay; this led to a lengthy standoff with farmers being the main losers.
led by Utiang Ugbe
- Cassava: uptake of use of mosaic disease-resistant and high yielding varieties. RIU has brought together a wide range of stakeholders including farmers, processors, researchers, financial institutions and development organizations in cassava innovation platforms. Specific activities include supporting lead farmers to demonstrate the benefits of the improved varieties and to serve as outgrowers to multiply improved varieties and make available cuttings, and providing training to farmers and processors. Responding to a glut of imported wheat in the market, which reduced demand for cassava flour, platform members demonstrated their innovation response capacity by rapidly switching to production of odourless fufu to meet local demand.
- Cowpea/soybeans: uptake and effective management of dual-purpose varieties and improved storage. By creating better linkages between stakeholders, including farmers, researchers and the private sector, the RIU platform successfully supported the introduction of a new private-sector delivered technology to improve storage of cowpeas - solarisation to kill weevils and triple bagging to prevent re-infestation. Demand for the bags currently outstrips supply. Promotion of a rust-resistant soybean variety has led to improved yields of this important crop. Uptake of varieties of both crops that combine high yields of pulses and good quality crop residues, and promotion of improved crop residue storage methods has improved dry season fodder availability for livestock.
- Aquaculture: Improved fish management, access to quality inputs and integration of aquaculture and horticulture. RIU Nigeria has improved linkages between stakeholders in the aquaculture sector. This has resulted in increased demand for fingerlings of improved strains and increased capacity of fish farmers through training. Also, the mandated research organizations are now working collaboratively to increase availability of locally manufactured, high-quality fish feed.
led by Augustin Mutijima
RIU Sierra Leone
- Maize: improved farming practices and marketing of maize. A key achievement has been the establishment of the Nyagatare Maize Investment Group (NYAMIG) as the business arm of the maize platform: shareholders in the company include 30 farmers' cooperatives. As a result the price being paid to farmers for maize has increased by half. RIU have facilitated linkages between NYAMIG and the World Food Program. This has led to an initial contract for 400 tonnes of maize at an attractive price, with the promise of more contracts in the future if quality standards can be met.
- Potatoes: improved access to seed potatoes. RIU's potato innovation platform tackled lack of potato seed through initiatives targeting both the formal and informal seed systems. For the formal system, two new bacterial wilt-resistant varieties, which were highly appreciated by consumers, were multiplied through conventional approaches by a cooperative. Later, the cooperative was supported to multiply selected potato varieties through the use of mini-tubers. The informal system was supported by training lead farmers to improve the way they select seed potatoes by practicing 'positive selection', e.g. by identifying diseased plants and avoiding collecting seed from these. To ensure this process started on a firm footing, the lead farmers were first supplied with good quality potato seeds of improved varieties.
- Cassava: making mosaic disease-resistant varieties more widely available. Initially, five farmer cooperatives were trained and facilitated to multiply new disease-resistant varieties recently released by the national research institute. This succeeded in rapidly making 2 million cuttings available for which there was very strong demand from farmers. To ensure continued availability of plating materials after RIU's involvement ends, Farmer Field Schools have been supported as a means of strengthening community ownership.
led by David Suale
- The main focus of RIU Sierra Leone's work has been to facilitate the establishment of PAID (Partnership in Agricultural Innovation for Development), an inclusive social business network drawing members from government ministries, research institutions, NGOs, universities, civil society, farmers and farmers' organizations. PAID's mission is to 'enhance the capacity and performance of organizations working together to generate innovations that boost the contribution of agriculture and natural resources to economic growth and improved livelihoods in Sierra Leone.' Over 100 organizations are already members of PAID, representing 45% of the country's farming population. In addition, RIU Sierra Leone is facilitating two fast-track innovation platforms focused on solar-drying in fruit/horticulture value chains and poultry feed production and marketing.
led by Vera Mugittu
- Indigenous poultry: Facilitating development of commercial rural indigenous poultry enterprises: RIU Tanzania has focused on commercialization of indigenous poultry rearing by promoting 100 bird flocks to exploit both strong consumer demand for traditional chickens and the poverty reducing potential of poultry. Roles played by RIU fall into three categories: identifying stakeholders, developing linkages and promoting dialogue; facilitating and building the necessary capacities, including increasing production capacity of hatcheries for indigenous chicks; and facilitating training and skills development. Strong linkages with the private sector (hatcheries, veterinary inputs, feed manufacturers) and government have been key features. An innovative way of overcoming weak extension services has been developed in which students from agricultural training collages are deployed to assist households during the first month of operation.
- Mechanization: Access to mechanisation for smallholder rice and maize farmers. Through its mechanization platform, RIU Tanzania has improved small-scale farmers' access to mechanized ploughing. This involved bringing the farmers, tractor owners and local government officers together. By facilitating neighbouring farmers to collaborate to hire tractors to plough their land as blocks, farmers were able to afford ploughing services and this also made business sense for the tractor owners who can now service a large new potential market. Improved access to mechanization has reduced the drudgery of hand cultivation for small-scale farmers, increased the area cultivated and opened the way to adoption of other improved research-based farming practices, such as use of improved varieties, appropriate application of fertilizer and correct spacing of crops.
led by Victor Masaka
- Conservation agriculture: Collaborative approach to scale-up use of conservation agriculture amongst small-scale farmers. RIU Zambia is focusing on facilitating an integrated and collaborative approach to promoting conservation agriculture in Zambia. This involves support to innovation platforms, communicating the benefits of conservation agriculture, especially via radio, implementation of a voucher system to increase access to draft animal ploughing, and support for field days. RIU is also lobbying for the development of conservation agriculture policy guidelines to overcome the problem of different actors providing different messages and interpretations of conservation agriculture, which causes confusion among farmers.
- Rice value chain: value addition and improvement of market linkages for small scale rice producers in Northern Zambia. RIU Zambia is aiming to increase farmers' access to better quality rice seed and improve access to premium markets.