Towards the end July, National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) representatives from eight countries in Sub Saharan Africa and South Asia converged in Tanzania to take stock of the concluding Tropical Legumes project that has been going on for the past 12 years. The Tropical legumes (TL) project was in three phases spread out over 12 years of implementation. The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) together with International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) were the main implementing partners working together with NARS.
With the end of this project, some of the work done in this field will be carried forward into the next of this project AVISA – Accelerated Varietal Improvement and Seed Delivery of Legumes and Cereals in Africa.
CIAT represented the bean component in the project with a view to increase bean productivity in Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania. Speaking at the event, Dr Robin Buruchara, Director, Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA), while representing CIAT’s perspective, said, “The TL project, through PABRA, has benefited not just the focus countries but more than 30 other countries by way of germplasm sharing and capacity building.”
The results were incredible! Seven-fold increase in number of improved common bean variety releases from 2011 to 2018.
Dr Jeff Ehlers, Senior Program Officer, Gates Foundation, thanked all stakeholders who played major roles in the projects, “It is satisfying to note that together we have been able to meet the productivity increase target of about 25% in some crops, as intended by the project, and got many improved varieties into the farmers’ fields.”
“The total investment of US$ 67 million together with partners, we have been able to achieve so much on ground,” said Dr Geoffrey Mkamilo, Director General, Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI), appreciating the Gates Foundation’s funding over the years.
Dr K. K Sharma, Deputy Director General – Research, ICRISAT, said, “One of the best things about this project is the huge number of partnerships it has created. I call upon the NARS partners and all our other partners to carry forward the excellent work done during the past years into the AVISA project.”
The next plan is to roll over the TLIII into AVISA project that will ensure modernized and accelerated improvement in the food systems.
“We have had a Return on Investment (ROI)of >US$ 25 in this project,” said Dr Rajeev Varshney, Research Program Director, Genetic Gains, ICRISAT, and Principal Investigator of the TLIII project. “From being orphan crops once, these crops now enjoy the status of genomics resource rich crops. In addition to developing 307 varieties, molecular breeding products have also reached farmers’ field in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. We have documented the achievements, lessons, challenges and gaps from this project to be published as a special issue in Plant Breeding journal.”
Gender integration, adoption of digital data collection, and institutional capacity building were some of the key challenges pointed out by Dr Chris Ojiewo, Global Coordinator, Tropical Legumes III project.
Working in partnership has accelerated the project achievement, and the stakeholders have committed to strengthen the partnership and multi sectorial work pushing forward the gains through AVISA to achieve the good crop productivity at optimum.