Trip Report to West Africa: Association of African Agricultural Professionals in the Diaspora
The Association of African Agricultural Professionals in the Diaspora (AAAPD) in an attempt to build a database of agricultural professionals both in the diaspora and within the continent, embarked on regional trips to Africa. Drs. Andrew Manu and Samuel Essah were charged to go to West Africa. The purpose of this exploratory visit was to interact with individuals, regional and local agricultural development organizations like the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), ministries of agriculture, as well as tertiary and technical institutions, farmers and other private sector organizations in Ghana and Burkina Faso. At the end of this regional tour, we would like to have a good appreciation of potential partners who will collaborate in the effort to promote sustainable agricultural development for the benefit of the smallholder producers in particular and for the population as a whole. This trip would also lead to the establishment of effective linkages through networking and information sharing with these entities. This trip was also used as a vehicle to recruit and register interested agricultural professionals who in the vision of AAAPD and want to join the agricultural revolution for Africa.
Period of Travel
The itinerary for this trip is presented in Appendix A. The team departed the United States from Des Moines, IA (Andrew Manu) on October 8, and from Denver, CO, (Samuel Essah) on October 9. Both team members departed Accra, Ghana on October 24, and arrived in the US on October 25, 2009.
Friday October 9, 2009
Preparatory Visits to University of Ghana and Headquarters of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)A team member arrived in Accra at 8:30 a.m. He went directly to the University of Ghana, Legon where he met with Professor Ben K. Ahunu, Provost of the University and Dr. Thomas Adjadeh, professor of soil science who also served as AAAPD’s contact person at the University. At this meeting, Andrew Manu explained the purpose and expected outcomes of AAAPD’s visit to the sub-region. We also discussed the logistics and format for the planned meeting with faculty, staff and students of the College of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences. We visited the venue for the meeting and checked out the audio visual equipment. We also inspected the site for the poster presentation on AAAPD. We spent two hours posting flyers that were used to advertise the meeting and distributed AAAPD brochures among faculty, staff and students. Copies of the flyers and brochures are attached as Appendices B and C, respectively.
From the University, the team member went to the headquarters of AGRA where he met Dr. André Bationo, Director of AGRA, West Africa and Senior Program Officer, Soil Health Program. This meeting was used to introduce AAAPD to AGRA and to work out the details for a subsequent meeting. Dr. Bationo expressed excitement on the formation of AAAPD. He however cautioned that we should try to make this a functional and effective association and not become like earlier “diaspora” associations that fizzled out after a few months.
Monday, October 12, 2009:
Ghana Oil Palm Development Company, Kwae, Eastern Region
The Ghana Oil Palm Development Company was initiated in 1975 by the government of Ghana but was privatized in 1995. The objective of the company is to diversify agricultural production through the introduction of oil palm as alternative to the production of cocoa and tropical woods. In addition to industrial plantations maintained by the company, 14,000 ha of land are maintained by outgrower smallholder farmers whose sustainable livelihoods are of interest to the AAAPD. The association’s collaboration with this company in research and extension to the benefit of the resource poor farmer will therefore be a useful AAAPD-private sector partnership.
A team member of AAAPD visited with 20 staff and research scientists (Fig. 1) at the Ghana Oil Palm of the company where he shared the vision and goals of the association and stressed the need for effective and sustainable partnerships to improve the lives of farmers through the identification and extension of improved agricultural practices. We thought it is important to stress this point with a private enterprise that is often profit driven and tends to marginalize the farmers. During the discussion session, participants suggested that we form regional chapters of the Association within the African continent. This, they suggested, will promote decentralization and lead to an effective association. At the end of the discussion session, participants had a tour of the seed nursery and plantation sections of the company (Fig. 2).
Fig. 2. Dr. Essah touring seed nursery of Oil Palm Development Company
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Biotechnology and Nuclear Agriculture Institute, Ghana Atomic Energy Commission
The Biotechnology and Nuclear Agriculture Research Institute (BNARI) has the mission to carry out research and development activities on safe biotechnology and nuclear technology and transfer these technologies to end users in order to enhance agricultural productivity, industrialization and health delivery. Two of the strategic objectives of the institute are; (1) to promote and strengthen partnerships with potential relevant national and international institutions in order to accelerate the identification of solutions to challenges in research, development and technology transfer; and (2) To build national capacity in biotechnology, biosafety and radiation processing to enhance agricultural productivity.
AAAPD’s vision for sustainable agricultural productivity and biosafety in Africa through research , extension and education is in line with the objectives of BNARI. We therefore made BNARI one of the strategic institutes to visit and we met with 10 of the researchers and administrators of the institute. The institute personnel expressed interest to partner with AAAPD to achieve the ultimate goal of promoting sustainable livelihoods of the smallholder farmers in Africa as a whole. Participants at the meeting wanted to see the AAAPD website up and running as soon as possible so that they could register on-line.
We had the opportunity to tour some of the facilities of the institute (Fig. 3) that included the plant propagation laboratories and food irradiation facilities.
Fig. 3 Plant Propagation section of the Biotechnology and Nuclear Agriculture Research Institute
Fig. 4. AAAPD Board members with some of the attendees at the networking session
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Accra, Ghana
The AAAPD team was pleased by the acceptance of Ghana’s Minister of Food and Agriculture (MOFA), the Hon. Kwesi Ahwoi, to meet with us on short notice. What was remarkable is the fact that he had just returned from a two-week international assignment. He also summoned several of his Deputy Ministers and Divisional Heads to this meeting. He was very gracious to listen to our presentation on AAAPD where we stressed how important it is for his ministry to join hands with the association to find solution to some of the agricultural problems we have in the country in particular and in Africa as a whole. We talked about AAAPD as a continental initiative and that we had colleagues who were carrying out similar mission in Southern Africa. The Minister applauded the vision to initiate the formation of AAAPD and expressed his gratitude to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for making this possible.
In the past, he said, he was totally appalled by the mass exodus of professionals to countries outside Africa neglecting their duty to develop Ghana. But after our presentation in which we pledged, as a matter of moral obligation, to give back to our nations, he encouraged us to do the best we can for the benefit of the continent. He pledged his ministry’s support to AAAPD and he went as far as to detail one of his deputy ministers to circulate information about the formation of AAAPD, and to encourage as many professionals in the MOFA to register as partners of AAAPD. We promised him and his staff that we will communicate the progress of the website development to him and requested audience for further discussions in the near future.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)
As a follow up to our previous visit to AGRA, the AAAPD team went to the headquarters of the organization where we met with Dr. Bationo and seven other Directors of the Alliance. Dr. Bationo started the meeting by giving us a comprehensive presentation on the goals, mission, the structure and the current activities of AGRA in West Africa. AAAPD also made a presentation to introduce the association and to solicit effective partnership with AGRA. A lengthy discussion followed after the presentations. The discussion focused mainly on how AAAPD could partner with AGRA in future projects in soil rehabilitation and maintenance, development of appropriate and suitable curriculum for instruction in soil science, and establishment of functional soil laboratories to support agricultural research. He further told us that after our first earlier in the week he sent the information on AAAPD to scientists at the ICRISAT Sahelian Center in Niamey, Niger, and he also promised to follow up to encourage agricultural professionals not only to register but to become active participants in the activities of the association. He further linked us with some University professionals who received funding from AGRA and also urged us to collaborate with them to educate young African agricultural scientists. As a result of this emphasis on effective training of students in agriculture, Andrew Manu is applying for a travel grant through the Iowa State University Foreign Travel Grant program to visit agricultural institutions in Ghana and develop well integrated soil science courses for undergraduates. This travel is planned for May of 2010. The other Directors would like see AAAPD support activities in plant breeding and food preservation. We promised to keep him up to date on the activities of the association.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
College of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences, University of Ghana, Legon
The AAAPD team engaged students, faculty and staff of the College of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences at the University of Ghana, Legon in a very effective meeting. . The Academic Departments that were represented at the meeting included; Soil Science, Crop Science, Horticulture, Animal Science, Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Extension. Although most of the attendees had prior knowledge of the association, through e-mail blasts from Prof. Adjadeh, AAAPD brochures, and flyers, we proceeded to set up a poster presentation in the auditorium ahead of time to give them detailed information on the background and of the association. Again, we did a powerpoint presentation and this was followed by very engaging question and answer session. Two major issues that we needed to address are the following:
(1) AAAPD Membership
With the name AAAPD, some of the participants felt that membership could only be limited to individuals living outside the continent of Africa. They questioned how people living and working on the continent could be considered members of the association
(2) Professional development
Being in an academic profession, a criterion for evaluation and promotion is journal publications. There seems to be frustration among the ranks because they have been inefficient in this area for varied reasons and they wanted to know what the association could do help.
We tried to address these issues as best as we could but we suggested that this could be some of the items that could be tackled on a discussion forum of the association as we get our website created and functional. This generated some interest in the website and participants encouraged us to speed up the website development process.
Thursday, October 15 to Friday, October 16, 2009
International Workshop on Capacity Building for Global Competitiveness in Developing Economies: The Nexus of Technology Development and Transfer, Education, and Culture.
La Palm Royal Beach Hotel, Accra, Ghana.
Some of the major platforms envisaged for effective launching of the association on the continent are international workshops and conferences. The AAAPD took advantage of one such workshops in Ghana. This was organized by the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore. AAAPD sponsored a half day session of the workshop that was entitled “ Brain Drain/Brain Gain: Opportunities for Development". This session had six papers that dealt with reversing brain drain and exploiting African intellectual resources in the diaspora for economic development on the continent. AAAPD presented the lead paper of the session entitled “Using Brain Gain to Support Sustainable Agricultural Development in Africa: The Case of the Association of African Agricultural Professionals in the Diaspora (AAAPD)". There was a group discussion after the presentations and we identified three initiatives in this area that was shared with the general conference.
In the evening of October 15, 2009, AAAPD hosted a networking session in an effort to recruit membership into the association. This was attended by about 75 people (Fig. 4) The introductory poster was displayed (Fig. 5) and here again we gave attendees the opportunity to read the poster for about 30 minutes. The AAAPD team made a formal presentation as we have done at previous locations after which we had an informal discussion and gave attendees the opportunity to register (fig. 6). There was a lot of excitement among the group for the formation of the association but at the same time we could feel that there are a lot of expectations from the association.
Fig. 4. AAAPD Board members with some of the attendees at the networking session
Fig 5. Attendees at the networking session reading the AAAPD poster
Fig.6. Interested participants at network session registering to become members of AAAPD
Friday, October 16, 2009
Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA)
The mission of FARA is to create broad-based improvements in agricultural productivity, competitiveness and markets, by supplying Africa’s sub-regional organization in strengthening capacity for agricultural innovation. FARA aims to provide a strategic platform to foster continental as well as global networking that reinforces the capacities of Africa’s NARS and sub-regional organizations.
AAAPD’s long-term mission and expected impacts on the continent’s sustainable agricultural growth actually mirror those of FARA. It is therefore appropriate that AAAPD becomes part of this continental network for change. The AAAPD team visited FARA headquarters in Accra, Ghana, and had a very fruitful meeting with 10 of their staff members (Fig. 7).Our contact person was Dr. Annor-Irene Frempong, Director of Capacity Building. The meeting was started with a very detailed presentation by Dr. Wale Adekunle, FARA’s Director of Partnerships and Strategic Alliances, on the rationale behind the establishment of FARA, the structure and the role of the forum as lead institution of Pillar 4 of the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP). In turn the AAAPD shared our mission and goals and our raison d’etre with the group and most importantly the effort to enter into strategic partnerships with FARA. It was generally agreed that AAAPD’s involvement in the activities of FARA could be through activities such as (1) Regional Agricultural Information and Learning Systems (RAILS); (2) Dissemination of New Agricultural Technologies in Africa (DONATA); and (3) Strengthening Capacity for Agricultural Research and Development in Africa (SCARDA). The staff expressed their sincere interest in any collaborative endeavors with AAAPD for African agricultural development and we also promised to keep them updated on the evolution and specific activities of the association through our website, e-mails, and personal visits.
Fig. 7. AAAPD Board members with staff, administrators and agricultural researchers of FARA
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Permanent Interstates Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS), Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
We could not travel to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, on the 18th of October as planned in the original itinerary because flights were canceled. We eventually arrived at Ouagadougou on the evening of October 19 and we were warmly received by the staff of the Permanent Interstates Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS).
Fig. 8. AAAPD Board Members with Dr. Issa Bikienga, Deputy Executive Secretary of CILLS at CILSS headquarters
The following day, we went to the headquarters of CILSS where we met with Dr. Issa Bikienga, the Deputy Executive Secretary. (Fig. 8).He gave us a brief background of CILSS and the mandate of the organization to ensure food security in Africa. In effect CILSS operates in following three areas: (1) Food security, desertification control, and population and development; (2) Promotion of agricultural and food commodities; and (3) Water Management.
We discussed the role AAAPD could play in these three areas and he advised us to get in touch with the other two organs of CILSS, namely; the Sahel Institute (INSAH) which is headquartered in Bamako, Mali, and the AGRHYMET Regional Center that is sited in Niamey, Niger. One AAAPD Board member has since contacted Dr. Moustapha Amadou, Director of INSAH. We stressed the importance of getting effective representation from the francophone West African countries in AAAPD and he promised to promote our cause.
October 22, 2009
Crop Research Institute, Kumasi, Ghana
This was an extremely busy day when we visited three major institutions and the first one was the Crops Research Institute of Ghana. At this institute, the Director Hans Adu Dappah mobilized his researchers and support staff to meet with us on a day they were having a regional meeting (Fig. 9). Participants were eager to partner with AAAPD, and to collaborate in future projects in the areas of research and agricultural extension.
One of the major developments was the recognition of the role female agricultural professionals could play in the association. It was agreed that those professionals could serve as role models for the future generation. Recognizing the importance of gender in agriculture whether at the local professional level and more importantly at the research and extension levels, the Director appointed one of the few lady researchers to serve as liaison between the institute and AAAPD. She is currently coordinating the recruitment and registration of members for AAAPD.
Researchers here also complained about constraints they have to publishing their research findings. They cited lack of effective peer review process as well as excessive page charges which they cannot afford to pay themselves and they do not have any institutional support. They feel their professional development is serious hampered and they wanted to know how AAAPD could help in this area.
Fig. 9 AAAPD Board members with researchers of the Crops Research Institute of Ghana
Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana
AAAPD visited with the faculty, staff, and students of the college of Agriculture and Renewable Natural Resources at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana. Departments that attended the Town Hall type meeting included, Soil Science, Crop Science, Horticulture, Animal Science, Agriculture Economics and Extension, Agriculture Engineering, and Renewable Natural Resources (Fig. 10). The participants were so enthusiastic to partner with AAAPD to effect positive change in agricultural production. During the questions and answer time, participants could not wait but started completing the registration forms available (Fig. 11). They promised to supply copies of the forms to individuals who could not attend the meeting.
An issue that was raised at this meeting is the formal structure of the association and how there could be effective coordination of our activities at the continental level. We assured them that we are working on a governance document and we expect to solicit input from all members. People were happy that everybody’s voice will be heard. One important suggestion that was made at this particular meeting is to find the means to get young agricultural graduates from tertiary institutions involved in field of agriculture either as field agronomists or extension agents.
Fig. 10. AAAPD Board members in a town hall type meeting at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology
Fig. 11. Enthusiastic faculty, staff and students filling out AAAPD registration forms at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology
Soil Research Institute, Kwadaso, Nyankpala, and Ohao Agricultural College, Kumasi, Ghana
As a result of the networking session at the international conference in Accra, we were able to attract faculty, staff, and students of the Soil Research Institute, and the Kwadaso, Nyankpala, and Ohao Agriculture Colleges to converge at the auditorium of the Soil Research Institute, Kumasi , for a very big meeting with representatives of AAAPD. A presentation was made by AAAPD to introduce the association and to recruit members to be partners of the association. This meeting was one of the largest during the West African trip (Fig. 12). This group showed so much enthusiasm because as people who will be working directly with farmers in the fields, they thought the association could be of immense help to prepare them for their professional careers.
The question of forming regional chapter of the association within the African continent came up again during discussion session. Over 100 participants registered at this meeting.
Fig. 12. Participants in meeting at the Soil Research Institute, Kumasi
The West Africa trip was very eventful and fruitful. The trip covered one Anglophone and one Francophone country in the West African Region. Twelve agriculture based institutions and ministries were visited. AAAPD was introduced to Faculty, Staff, and/or students of these institutions through a series of presentations. Almost three hundred Agricultural Professionals were recruited on site and the list is attached as Appendix D and the majority is waiting to register on-line to partner with AAAPD.