Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) together with the Instituto de Investigação Agrária de Moçambique (IIAM) and the Tanzania Agriculture Research Institute (TARI-ILONGA) have joined to form the Center of Innovation for Crop Improvement for East and Southern Africa (CICI-ESA).
Earlier this week, the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Crop Improvement announced approximately $1 million in funding to launch the Center of Innovation for Crop Improvement for East and Southern Africa (CICI-ESA) in Malawi aimed at developing more resilient, nutritious crops throughout the region.
According to a press release by Feed the Future, CICA-ESA will act as a regional hub for crop improvement, with a focus on cowpea due to the crop’s importance in regional food security.
“CICA-ESA will guide the region towards sustainable, climate smart, equitable and effective crop improvement programs and reduce hunger and malnutrition in the long-term by driving improved tools, technologies and methods for target crops essential for food security in a range of environments, cropping systems and key stakeholders,” reads the document.
The Center of Innovation will prioritize the inclusion of farmers in Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania in the process of designing and developing more productive and nutritious varieties and conduct a comprehensive analysis to understand specific gender and youth dynamics in the cowpea value chain.
The release and use of stable high yielding, nutritionally rich, drought tolerant, disease resistant and early maturing varieties will increase productivity of the crop, and in doing so improve food security, reduce nutrition deficiencies and alleviate poverty, particularly amongst smallholder farmers, women and children.
Michael Chipeta, Principal Investigator and Lecturer at LUANAR said the project will help them to reach their current goal of developing more productive cowpea varieties that are farmer preferred, market driven, gender, youth and resilient inclusive using more effective and efficient breeding pipelines.
“The center of innovation will be a training hub for plant breeders who can transform breeding practices using new techniques that are more efficient and precise to provide quality cultivars for the growing population in Malawi and other developing countries in East and Southern Africa,” he said.
According to Project Co-Principal Investigator and Lecturer at LUANAR, Dr Jessica Kampanje Phiri the platform will ensure that cowpea breeding or any future innovations that the center will embark on are not only multi-disciplinary but also sensitive to solving context specific food security problems through socially and culturally sensitive research.
Stephen Kresovich, program director and professor of plant breeding and genetics at Cornell and Clemson universities said the Center of Innovation will leave a lasting impact on food security for many years to come.
“Together we are creating impact and forming sustainable solutions to reduce hunger on a local and global scale,” he said.
The three year project aims at developing more nutritious, resilient lines of cowpea as currently the crop’s productivity struggles against drought, heat, low soil fertility and pests, putting pressure on food security in the region.