Irish Aid

Peter Power, image by DFA
Peter Power, image by DFA

IITA was among eight CGIAR centers that will receive over €4 million in funding from Irish Aid.

Peter Power, Irish Minister of State for Overseas Development, said that the €4.4 million funding is a “central component” of Irish Aid’s response to the global food crisis. “More than 850 million people across the world today are hungry, while high food prices risk pushing 100 million additional people over the edge into hunger and poverty. Top quality agricultural research plays a crucial role in improving the performance and sustainability of agriculture. It will also help the poorest and most vulnerable farmers cope with the effects of climate change.”

IITA will receive €640,000 in funding. Other research centers selected include Biodiversity International, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and the World Potato Centre (CIP). Ireland has provided more than €20 million to support the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) this year, which includes €3 million to help mitigate the effects of price rises on the WFP’s existing food relief programs.

Cassava research

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has called for more research on the tropical root crop cassava to help poor countries cope with rising food and oil prices. Cassava is a staple food for millions of poor people in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and Asia, providing as much as a third of daily calories.

African cassava mosaic virus. Photo by IITA

Members of the Global Cassava Partnership for Genetic Improvement (GCP21) such as IITA reviewed the current state of cassava production worldwide and future prospects at a conference held in Belgium in July. Current average cassava yields are barely 20 percent of those obtained under optimum conditions. Despite growing demand and its production potential, the crop is grown mainly in areas that have little or no access to improved varieties, fertilizer and other production inputs, by small-scale farmers with no access to marketing channels and agroprocessing industries.

To help develop the crop’s potential in addressing the global food and energy crisis, GCP21 will launch new projects such as establishing a cassava chain delivery system to channel technical advances to poor farmers, improving soil fertility, enhancing basic scientific knowledge of the crop, including genomics, and training the next generation of cassava researchers in developing countries.

Detailed information about the Ghent meeting also on the AGRA website