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Wilberforce Kisamba-Mugerwa

Wilberforce Kisamba-Mugerwa reflects on ISNAR's mandate to bring about change for poor farmers
Wilberforce Kisamba-Mugerwa reflects on ISNAR's mandate to bring about change for poor farmers

The need for agricultural and institutional innovation

Wilberforce Kisamba-Mugerwa is Director of the ISNAR Division of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Agriculture provides the foundations of African development. But building capacity, improving markets, strengthening governments and improving access to health are important cornerstones if food and nutrition security across the continent are to be achieved. In this rapidly changing world, there is an increasing need for innovations that help developing countries deal with challenges of food security, nutrition, resource management and competitiveness in farming, and which provide livelihoods to the majority of the rural poor.

Established in April 2004, the ISNAR Division of IFPRI (International Food Policy Research Institute) was set up with a mandate to bring about change in agricultural innovation systems for the benefit of poor farmers in African and other developing countries. With the headquarters for the African Union and the Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa, we feel that the Division is ideally situated within a major policy hub for Africa. But, although strongly focused on Africa, ISNAR (International Service for National Agricultural Research) will also be active globally and will capitalise on the presence of IFPRI regional offices in Costa Rica, China and India.

The challenges ahead

The Division is still in its infancy and recruitment for new staff continues, but in the challenges that lie ahead we want to create an arrangement whereby the clients participate in determining the issues which we must tackle and they own both the process and the product. One of the most important areas of study will be institutional innovations because we have to understand relationships between different players like the private sector, civil society, and farmers to see how they affect the rate of technology adoption and ability to increase productivity. Public-private partnerships are particularly important in this crusade under the liberalised economy.

It is also most important that we keep pace with the changing environment. We have to stay ahead, to conduct the research and, in partnership with our clients, come up with possible solutions that enable policymakers to choose what fits in their environment. Changes may take time to really be seen but the ground is sufficiently conducive to adopting policies and undertaking institutional changes, which may help us work towards eradicating poverty, eliminating malnutrition and ensuring food security.

Living by example

I myself am a small farmer and I endeavour to live by example so that I talk about issues which I practically undertake. I know that even small-scale farmers can be efficient. When we talk about commercialising agriculture and reducing subsistence some people tend to think only of large-scale farmers. But even as a small-scale farmer, you can strive to be efficient using the recommended technologies and minimising post-harvest losses; you can break even and be motivated to invest more in agriculture and adopt appropriate technologies.

My vision for Africa is to see a flourishing continent using to its best advantage, its wealth of natural resources. And I believe that the ISNAR Division is well placed, through its research and advisory services and in partnership with others, to achieve this.

Date published: January 2005


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