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FARA: Innovation for social good

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FARA: Innovation for social good

Rolling out proven technology and using ICT to link farmers, researchers and extension workers is at the core of FARA’s mission.

Fara is the apex organisation for agricultural research in Africa and to facilitate the dissemination and adoption of technologies and best practices as they emerge from the research system. The organisation works with farmer groups, sub-
regional research institutions and national agricultural research institutes to expand its reach. As Yemi Akinbamijo, the organisation’s Executive Director, says: “FARA is not just a 60 man secretariat sitting in Accra. FARA is a forum.”

One of the key collaborative programmes coordinated by FARA and funded by the African Development Bank is the Dissemination of New Agricultural Technologies in Africa (DONATA) initiative, which is having transformative effects across the continent.

In the Republic of Congo, many farmers have struggled for years with cassava mosaic disease, which attacks their staple crop and dramatically reduces yields. Thanks to DONATA, in the country, farmers have been given access to mosaic-resistant clones.

Researchers from the Loudima Agricultural Research Centre, the DONATA focal point in the Republic of Congo, have trained farmers to use advanced seeds and explained the conditions that allow the disease to spread. As a result, incidences of cassava mosaic disease have been reduced by between 60 and 70 per cent.

The DONATA initiative aims to catalyse the widespread adoption and use of new and proven technologies, with a view to enhancing agricultural productivity, increasing food security and reducing poverty in Africa.

It has helped to analyse the agricultural value chains in African countries and to scale up and out proven technologies. It has also identified dissemination pathways for the existing social, environment and market conditions to speed the adoption and commercialisation of agricultural technologies.

The Innovation Platforms for Technology Adoption (IPTAs) under DONATA is a multi-stakeholder platform, which includes farmers, farmers’ organisations, extension workers, agro-processors, marketers, representatives of the agribusiness sector, researchers and credit providers. These stakeholders share and learn improved skills and knowledge for transforming their agricultural enterprises. To date, there are more than 140 IPTAs operating across the 24 African countries participating in DONATA.

In the Republic of Congo, the initiative has had widespread impacts. As well as improving farmers’ incomes by reducing their losses to cassava mosaic virus disease, it has had a huge impact on food security, while saving a multi billion-dollar industry. Cassava is a staple crop in Congo. The additional extension services and the availability of higher-yielding varieties facilitated by DONATA have also boosted production.

Since 2008, IPTAs have been making a difference in Burkina Faso as well. One platform has analysed the maize value chain in the Sissili region, under the coordination of the Burkinabé ministry of agriculture. Having established that maize production was rising, but that farmers needed to organise for marketing opportunities, a second platform was created in 2010. Since then, farmers have been able to pre-sell their crops and improve the security of their incomes.

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