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International Workshop aims to co-ordinate Agricultural Research in Africa

An International Workshop to build closer alignment between African national agricultural research organisations and the CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) institutes is taking place at the Teagasc Food Research Centre, Ashtown, Co. Dublin over the next three days. This week's workshop aims to address issues around building closer collaboration between the research providers.

This event has brought together over 60 highly prestigious delegates from Africa, the US, Canada, Australia and the EU to identify strategies by which agricultural productivity in Africa can be enhanced through closer collaboration between the national and international agricultural research providers. The gathering includes Dr Frank Rijsberman, the newly appointed Director of CGIAR, directors of national agricultural research institutes in Africa, representative of many national donor organisations, including USAID and the EU and the World Bank.

With agriculture employing two thirds of Africa’s labour force and accounting for one third of GDP, it is the main sector upon which the continent is relying to consolidate its recent gains on the macro‐economic front and to free hundreds of millions of its people trapped in poverty and hunger. Since agriculture is the predominant source of livelihood for the poor, smallholder agriculture‐driven growth offers these people the most straightforward means of escaping poverty. According to the World Bank’s World Development Report for 2008, growth from agriculture is at least twice as effective in reducing poverty compared to growth generated by other sectors.

Despite improvements made in African agriculture, continued population growth means that the per capita availability of domestically grown food has not changed on the continent for 50 years and has fallen substantially in three regions. As a consequence the sector is not realising the growth levels required for it to serve as the driver of economic growth, poverty reduction and increased food security.
African leaders recognise that for agriculture to serve as the engine for growth the sector must be transformed. It is widely accepted that Africa’s agricultural growth strategy should be centred on increasing productivity, based on enhanced science and technology inputs built around closer cooperation between national and international research providers.

Opening the workshop, Professor Gerry Boyle, Director of Teagasc, said that the Teagasc model of innovation support, based on the integration of research, advisory services and education could provide an excellent blueprint for developing nations struggling with the challenge of enhancing their agricultural productivity. He said this is being increasingly recognised by the growing number of international visitors to Teagasc. In this regards Teagasc are working with Irish Aid to send a team of experts to Tanzania to see how we could assist in building the Teagasc model of innovation in that country.