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Considering our strategic role in southern African agriculture

Today I toured ICRISAT’s research plots, labs, gene bank, facilities and housing in our Bulawayo office in Zimbabwe.  The station is located next to the livestock research center on the accession of 28,000 acres that was once Cecil Rhodes property.

Tour of ICRISAT fields at Bulawayo with Sakile Kudita

Tour of ICRISAT fields at Bulawayo with Sakile Kudita

It is really good to see the rejuvenation of our work on crop improvement and gene bank accession evaluations. Sakile Kudita has been doing a fantastic job of regenerating and testing old varieties that were developed way back in 2003.  She is seeing what we want to work with going forward.  I could see a lot of opportunity to modernize this process.

ICRISAT first started work in the region in 1982 and the station was developed in 1985 with significant support of USAID.  The scientific team had a very large sorghum and pearl millet breeding program supported by USAID until 2003.  They also worked on the development on the bana grass (a cross between pearl millet and Napier grass as a fodder crop that was very successful.

Caption: Touring ICRISAT’s Bulawayo laboratory facilities 

Caption: Touring ICRISAT’s Bulawayo laboratory facilities

There is a large facility to examine the processing of crops including a lab for milling, cooking and taste testing of different products from sorghum and pearl millet. There is also new equipment for modern soil analysis.

I talked to staff about a program to rejuvenate the program in southern Africa after we have done our country planning and considered our strategic role in agricultural development in the area.

I see a great opportunity for us to think hard about the scientific expertise that is needed within ICRISAT and the national partners to make agriculture more profitable and for the goals of the SADC region (Angola, Botswana, DRC, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Swaziland, Tanzania, and Zambia)

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