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ASARECA selected to coordinate multi-million dollar regional transformation project

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Ugandan delegation discuss ECAAT national and regional priorities

The National Agricultural Research Education and Extension Systems (NARES) of seven African countries have selected ASARECA to coordinate the Eastern and Central Africa Agriculture Transformation Project (ECAAT).

ECAAT is an ambitious multi-million-dollar regional transformation initiative mooted to start mid 2018. It is a joint initiative of the governments of Burundi, Kenya, DRCongo, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda with financing from the World Bank. It is uniquely designed to leverage on human and infrastructural resources of the countries to undertake collaborative research for development and facilitate cross border sharing of research products to catalyze agricultural transformation.

During a regional meeting to tease out and pen down the finer details of ECAAT country and regional project programming in Arusha, Tanzania from October 29 to November 10, participants extolled ASARECA for stellar performance in coordinating ECAAT’s successor programme, the Eastern Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme (EAAPP).

EAAPP was implemented from 2010-2014. It promoted collaborative agricultural research for development and sharing of research outcomes among member countries of Ethiopia, the regional centre of excellence for wheat, Kenya (for dairy), Tanzania (for rice), and Uganda (for cassava). The goal of EAAPP was to increase agricultural productivity and competitiveness, raise farm incomes, reduce poverty and improve food security in Eastern Africa.

ECAAT, however, signifies a step forward by building on investments made under EAAPP to cause transformation in agricultural research in development.

The key transformational elements under ECAAT are:

  • Enhancing technology of production along the entire commodity value chains, including providing farmers with access to technical knowledge and improved seeds and breeds.
  • Building resilience to climate change and promoting nutrition-sensitive agriculture and food safety.
  • Developing critical skills to meet the needs of current and future food systems, including skills required by private and public sectors.
  • Forming partnerships and alliances that connect farmers with markets and enable farmers to understand market needs and produce for the market.
  • Promoting regional integration of markets for food commodities, food products and production technologies.
  • Facilitating policy and regulatory environment that enables regional collaboration in developing solutions along the value chain and encourage private sector participation in agricultural research for development.

From four to seven countries

While EAAPP comprised four Regional centres of Excellence, ECAAT brings on board more members and commodities. In addition to Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia, the new entrants are Rwanda, Burundi, DRCongo, and Republic of Congo, bringing the total membership to seven.

In addition to cassava, rice, dairy and wheat, new commodities that have been mooted include edible oilseeds, poultry/meat, beans, and maize. A unique additional area of research—Land husbandry—brought on board by Rwanda, was also been accepted as a priority investment area under ECAAT.

Why ASARECA was chosen

Speaking at the opening ceremony, on behalf of the Guest of Honour, the Permanent Secretary for Livestock and Fisheries for Tanzania, Dr. Lovince Asimwe, the Assistant Director for Livestock Production said, coordination is a key aspect if the ECAAT project is to succeed. “Without a competent and tested institution to coordinate national actions to produce regional goods, all our efforts will come to nothing,” Asimwe said. This message was re-echoed by country delegations as they presented status reports of country planning processes.

With this hindsight, the National Agricultural Research Systems unanimously selected ASARECA to coordinate ECAAT. They noted ASARECA’s vantage position as sub-regional organization  (SRO) mandated by the National Agricultural Research, Education and Extension systems (NARES) in Eastern and Central Africa to convene and coordinate collaboration amongst member states.

ASARECA has physical presence and implementation impacts in all the ECAAT countries except Republic of the Congo. Even for the case of the Congo, ASARECA will enter an MoU with CORAF, a sister SRO, to formally loop in the Congo.

ASARECA’s Interim Executive Secretary, Dr. Cyprian Ebong, told country teams that ASARECA will ably coordinate ECAAT, bringing on the table a reformed Board of Directors, integrated to the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) to oversee the secretariat performance. This arrangement is expected facilitate the mainstreaming the RECs research priorities into ASARECA strategic plan…and vise versa.

ASARECA track record

ASARECA has a track record of excellent performance. During EAAPP (2010-2015), ASARECA coordinated regional collaborative research to achieve EAAPP goal of increasing adoption of new varieties, breeds and management practices; increasing adoption of improved processing and handling methods by processors; increasing access to disseminated new technologies; increasing land area with seeds of improved cultivars and increasing the number of improved livestock breeds.

As a result, average level of regional specialization and collaboration across the four countries hit 63 percent, an increase of 53 percentage points above the baselines. Twenty-nine regional (29) research projects were initiated with high levels of country participation. Short and long-term training of research scientists increased the capacity of Regional Centres of Excellence (RCoEs) in each country. A totalof 105 Masters students and 44 PhD candidates were fully funded under the project. A further 50 students received partial funding from the project.

RCoEs developed 138 new technologies. Twenty-three (23) new technologies were disseminated across national boundaries.These include: two rice varieties from Tanzania that were released in Kenya and Uganda and undergoing national performance trials in Ethiopia; fourclones of Napier grass from Kenya that were recommended for dissemination in Uganda; botanical seed of cassava with enhanced carotene that were sent to Ethiopia, Tanzania and Kenya; assisted reproductive technologies from Kenya that was sent to the other countries.

Article by Ben Moses Ilakut-ASARECA communications unit

Date Published: 
Sunday, 19 November 2017