The minister of agriculture, Tress Bucyanayandi has urged agricultural scientists and researchers to continue coming up with innovations to optimally use the vast natural resources of the Eastern and Central Africa region.
“Our sub-region has one of the best soil, water, and biodiversity resources and therefore, is blessed with a vast agricultural potential. But it still remains a major challenge for our continent, our sub-region and our specific countries to tap this vast agricultural potential to the benefit of our people,” he said.
He added that it is important that the people and governments of different nations join hands and work together to solve common problems and exploit potential common development opportunities to the benefit and common good of all people in the region.
“Our governments and our people expect much from our scientists and professionals working in the field of agricultural research for development. We expect that our national scientists working in partnership with farmers, private sector, scientists in the regional and international institutions and development partners to come up with new innovations that would help us to eradicate poverty, bring about economic growth and improve the livelihood of our people,” he said.
Bucyanayandi made the remarks while officiating at the opening ceremony of the first general assembly of the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA) which is currently taking place at the Imperial Resort Beach Hotel in Entebbe, Uganda. The general assembly ends on Friday December 16, 2011.
He urged agricultural scientists to work collectively and in partnerships to overcome the common challenges the sector faces in order to improve the nutritional quality of food as well as come up with drought tolerant crops to help farmers adapt to climate change.
He commended ASARECA for working towards achieving the Millennium Development goals and the NEPAD Agricultural Agenda of the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Program (CAADP).
On his part, ASARECA Executive Director, Dr Sefyu Ketema highlighted the successes of his organization since it was established in 1994 which include key developments in the area of research with new technologies invented leading to Quality Protein Maize (QPM) which will ensure that children don’t suffer from malnutrition. Currently, 30% of the children in Sub Saharan Africa suffer from protein energy malnutrition.
“Most families in Africa cut out protein-rich foods from their diets because foods such as fish, meat, eggs and milk are expensive. QPM is an improved variety of maize containing twice the Lysine and Tryptophan amino acids essential for protein synthesis in humans. QPM technologies are available in Uganda and Tanzania among other countries,” Dr Ketema said.
ASARECA operates in 10 countries with a combined population of over 280 million people. These people need new ways to combat food insecurity and hunger hence the theme of this general assembly being “feeding our region in the 21st Century.”
Dr Ketema added that research has also been instrumental in fighting the brown streak disease that affects cassava as well as the Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW).
Over 350 agricultural scientists and researchers are attending this summit together with ministers from the 10 ASARECA member countries which are Burundi, D. R. Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.