2019 Mid-term review meeting: CIALCA on track to improve profitable agriculture in the Great Lakes Region

Improving food and nutrition security and developing climate resilient and profitable agriculture were discussed at the mid-term review meeting of the Consortium for Improving Agriculture-based Livelihoods in Central Africa (CIALCA). The three-day meeting was held in Kigali, Rwanda between 29 October and 1 November 2019.

CIALCA operates in Rwanda, Burundi and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and is co-led by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Bioversity International and Joint Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and International Atomic Energy Agency (FAO/IAEA).

Over 40 participants from CIALCA’s leading organisations, partner and development organisations graced CIALCA mid-term review meeting and commended its continued impact in transforming agriculture and challenged CIALCA to leverage on its 14-year presence and take agriculture to an extra mile.

Dr. Charles Murekezi, Director General of Agriculture Development in the Rwandan Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources observed the relevance of CIALCA in Rwanda and the Great Lakes Region.  “I applaud CIALCA for their ability to move with time and the way this consortium evolves from hard science towards science for action. CIALCA’s mandate falls in the vision of the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, not only in Rwanda but also in the whole region,” said Dr. Murekezi, also a CIALCA Alumni, who officiated the opening of the meeting.

Co-investing with scaling partners to ramp up delivery of innovation

Since 2018, CIALCA has partnered with One Acre Fund to help them better understand their clients, particularly understanding the drivers of adoption for their interventions and whether specific types of farmers are more or less likely to adopt certain practices and technologies. To do this, CIALCA and One Acre Fund have developed farm typologies of Rwandan farmers to better understand and reduce the complexity of heterogeneity present in farming households.

This process has seen a series of typologies developed which have mapped farming households along two axes (wealth and adoption of inputs). These typologies are now being validated to ensure their existence and help One Acre Fund to target interventions towards potential clients who are more likely to adopt their interventions, and to deliver appropriate and tailored interventions that are sensitive to farm heterogeneity across Rwanda.

Developing site-specific fertilizer recommendations for cassava in the Great Lakes Region

In November 2018, CIALCA established 121 field trials in Burundi, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo to better understand how cassava responds to different combinations of Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium and other micronutrient-based fertilizers. CIALCA is optimistic about the results with Deus Kayibanda, CIALCA Research Assistant in Rwanda, mentioning that “Observable results before harvesting are very impressive and promising.”

This research will support the Governments and agriculture institutions of Rwanda, Burundi and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to come up with fertilizer recommendations for cassava farming tailored to location, weather predictions, soil type, the farmer’s production objectives.

“There is a big difference between the cassava fields that are fertilized and the cassava fields that are not fertilized. The fertilized cassava crop looks much better and there is no doubt that we will harvest better roots,” Matabaro David, one of farmers whose land is used for cassava nutrient omission trials in Ruhango district, witnessed to participants of the CIALCA mid-term review who visited his fields.

Monitoring and controlling Banana Xanthomonas Wilt using smart ICT tools

A spin-off project of CIALCA, called ICT4BXW, focusing on the use of ICT in the fight against Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW) in Rwanda. The ICT4BXW Application has been developed by IITA, Bioversity, Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resource Development Board (RAB) and the German research institute IAMO, and is now available on Google Play Store, CLICK HERE to access the BXW-App. Any compatible android smartphone user can access, download, and use it to systematically diagnose BXW and access state of the art banana management advice.

Farmer promotor in Kayonza district, Rwanda training a farmer how to diagnose BXW using BXW_App

“Farmer promoters are easily diagnosing Banana Xanthomonas Wilt in the main banana regions and directly transferring information to sector agronomist and RAB. Before BXW-App was introduced, we had to travel to those sites, but now we do it using the phones” explained Nkunduwimye Jean Marie Vianney who works for RAB Ruhango station, which serves Ruhango, Muhanga and Kamonyi districts in the southern province of Rwanda.

CIALCA invests in developing the capacity of future business, science and policy leaders

PhD and MSC students under CIALCA scholarships, to Belgian universities and University of Rwanda

Apart from investing in action research that directly lead to solutions and innovation, CIALCA also support MSc and PhD students as part of its efforts to strengthen agricultural research and development capacity in the Great Lakes Region. Since the start of CIALCA, more than 150 PhD, Msc students and Bachelor students have completed their studies/research, and currently 8 students are pursuing their PhD and Msc studies under CIALCA umbrella.

Moving forward with CIALCA

CIALCA is committed to continue leveraging research for development in the Great Lakes Region. Dr. Bernard Vanlauwe, IITA Central Africa Hub Regional Director who officially closed the mid-term review meeting, reiterated the impact brought by CIALCA to the Great Lakes Region and called for the continuous rejuvenation of the consortium. “CIALCA is Research for Development, that will not change, but we need to constantly adapt to up-to-date agriculture needs and opportunities. CIALCA has been there over a decade but we never get old”, Dr. Bernard said in his closing remarks.

Dr. Kathelyne Craenen, Attaché Development Cooperation at the Belgian Embassy who represented the Belgian Development Cooperation (DGD), CIALCA’s core donor, mentioned that: “I have been involved in CIALCA since its very first start in 2005. CIALCA is one of the flagships of DGD in terms of how development cooperation can lead to real innovation, capacity development and impact.”