The Consortium for Improving Agriculture-based Livelihoods in Central Africa (CIALCA) and the CGIAR Research Programme on the Humid Tropics today opened the first international conference to examine the challenges and opportunities for intensifying farm production in sub-Saharan Africa’s humid tropical regions.
Although good rainfall and temperatures allow cropping most of the year, small farm sizes, persistent civil conflicts, poor infrastructure, and political instability have made it difficult for Central Africa’s small farmers to eke out a living. The region has some of the highest rates of food insecurity, malnutrition, and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.
“When CIALCA first started, we thought this was the best opportunity to highlight that science can contribute to peace,” said Nteranya Sanginga, a Congolese scientist and Director General designate of IITA, which will lead a major global CGIAR research program for the humid tropics that builds off of CIALCA’s work.
“Achieving food security in CIALCA region is a big challenge,” said Sanginga. “If we don’t find solutions to food security under the current constraints, we will face major challenges and increased conflict over food, land, and other natural resources in the next few decades.”
During the opening plenary, CIALCA partners and representatives of the Rwandan government highlighted the success of several projects that are delivering results for farmers and national food security. In 2007, 20 out of 30 districts in Rwanda were reported as being food insecure. Today, as a result of increased public investment in agriculture and country’s National Crop Intensification Program, all of Rwanda’s districts are now food secure. In addition, the country is exporting surplus crops to neighboring countries and is the only country in the region not dealing with food crisis.
Rwanda’s Permanent Secretary for Agriculture, Ernest Ruzindaza, noted the importance of linking research knowledge to the needs of farmers on the ground and taking a more systemic approach to ensure food security and eradicate poverty.
“CAADP is here to support African countries in their push to support agriculture, but agriculture alone cannot solve the problem of poverty. Other rural development programs are need and agriculture is a key player,” he said.