Improving the competitiveness of root and tubers will help in alleviating poverty in Africa, considering that 80 percent of people in the rural areas depend on agriculture as a source of livelihood, according to Ghanaian President, John Dramani Mahama today.
“Root and tuber crops (sweet potato, cassava, and yams) provide great opportunities for long-term poverty alleviation and food security much more than any other staple foods produced in the African, Caribbean and Pacific regions,” Mahama who was represented by Mohammed Alfa, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology Innovation, said at the 12th symposium organized by the International Society for Tropical Root Crops-Africa Branch (ISTRC-AB) in Accra, Ghana.
The symposium in Accra is coming at a time when global attention on agriculture is trending up. It provided scientists and partners in development the opportunity to reexamine the competitiveness of root and tuber crops with a view to harnessing their potential and accelerating Africa’s economic growth.
Dr Nzola Mahungu, ISTRC-AB President, who is also the Country Representative for the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in DR Congo said, “Root and tuber crops play an important role in ensuring food security in Africa, and we must tap the opportunities of these crops.”
Widely consumed across Africa, root and tuber crops play a key role in the continent, providing incomes for farmers, generating wealth, and cushioning the effect of cereals’ shortfall.
For instance, cassava is a source of livelihood for over 300 million people in Africa, and with climate change the root crop is becoming increasingly important, thanks to its ability to withstand drought and growth on soils with marginal fertility.“But the potential of these crops is yet to be fully exploited,” Dr Mahungu said.
The conference which begins on Monday, 30 September 2013, provides a window of opportunity for partners to compare notes and develop strategies that will unleash the potential of the root and tuber crops.
Specific areas of interest include:
• African root crops trade and market scenarios
• Policies favorable to competitiveness of root crops in Africa
• African scenario on production and utilization of root and tuber crops
• Business and investment scenarios on competitiveness of root crops in Africa—benchmarking Latin American, Asian and European markets (Learning from Latin American, Asian & European industries)
• Mobilizing investors for sustainable root and tuber crops research and development.
IITA Director General, Dr Nteranya Sanginga, who was represented by the Deputy Director General (Partnerships and Capacity Development), Dr Kenton Dashiell commended the ISTRC-AB team for organizing the meeting, adding that it was timely especially in light of the growing threats to food security and rising unemployment in the continent.
Dr Sanginga noted that if properly harnessed, the root and tuber crops would help in absorbing the burgeoning number of unemployed youths, and put this pool of human resource to productive use.
He also called on scientists to ensure that their research outputs were creating the desired change at the farm level by addressing the constraints of development.
The week-long event attracted over 200 hundred local and international scientists, donors, farmers, and other development partners.
The 12th ISTRC Symposium is organized with support from the government of Ghana, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), IITA, CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Banana, HarvestPlus, African Development Bank-funded Support for Agricultural Research and Development of Strategic Crops (SARD SC) project, IITA-Yams Improvement for Incomes and Food Security in West Africa (YIIFSWA), Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike; the Federal Government of Nigeria, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Potato Center (CIP) and several other organizations.
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