Former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Tuesday urged the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to invest more in agriculture, particularly cassava, soybean, cowpea and plantain, which will reduce the annual food import bill of $50 billion from Africa.
Obasanjo declared this during the formal inauguration by President Felix Tshisekedi of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA, Kalambo Research Station in Bukavu, DRC, and was named’ President Olusegun Obasanjo Research Station,’ in honor of the former President of Nigeria, who is also the Goodwill Ambassador of IITA.
At the inauguration had in attendance the President of the African Development Bank, AfDB, Dr Akinwumi Adesina; Oyo State Governor, Engr. Seyi Makinde; and among others, former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.
He said, “Cassava is the first crop to be taken. The second crop is soybean because it is very important for food and livestock. The next one is plantain and cowpea. When we invest in these crops, we will reduce the $50 billion that Africa spends annually on food imports. “He also recalled that his administration was able to increase the production of cassava by 20 million tons during his eight-year term as a result of research that led to agricultural transformation.
He commended Dr. Nteranya Sanginga, Director-General of IITA for his leadership, and the Institute (IITA) for their excellent research in resolving Africa’s problems.
The IITA ambassador congratulated President Tshisekedi on providing IITA with the enabling environment and support for setting up the center, saying he felt profoundly honoured to be part of it.
Dr. Sanginga clarified that the purpose of the establishment of the research station was committed to the mission of IITA and its partners to combat hunger and poverty in Africa, which would help boost agricultural productivity in the DR Congo and the region.
“The station is a symbol of our dedication and commitment to building the research and development capacity in DR Congo and the Great Lakes,” he said.
He reiterated the importance of research for agricultural transformation and highlighted Nigeria’s success in cassava on the basis of research innovations produced by IITA and its partners.
The inauguration was also attended by IITA Director for the Central African Region, Dr. Bernard Vanlauwe, who said that the lab building was designed and completed in record time using modern methods and materials.
“Indeed, the first stone was placed in October 2017 and the building completed in 18 months. This speed and efficiency symbolize the nature of the activities taking place in the lab, namely the rapid and large-scale production of healthy planting materials of crops of key importance to the DRC as well as the production of bio-fertilizers to ensure the growth and quality of these crops,” Vanlauwe explained.
The station in Kalambo has been working in project mode for many years, but in 2011, the IITA Board of Trustees voted to upgrade it to become the focal point of the Institute’s local natural resource management center in the Great Lakes. It now also houses a first-class tissue culture lab for cassava, banana, tea, yam, and potato vegetative multiplication.