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Celebrating 20 years in Africa

AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center marks two decades of activities and progress from its base of operations in Arusha, Tanzania.

At 20, human beings begin to map a path forward in life, seeking out new relationships and situations that will expand, inform and test their knowledge and experience of the world. And so it was with the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center, which, after 20 years of service in Asia, expanded its scope of concern to encompass Africa in 1992.

Since then, AVRDC’s Regional Center for Africa (RCA) has established itself as a reliable, respected partner in agricultural research and development to alleviate poverty and malnutrition across the continent. To mark RCA’s 20th anniversary, Regional Director Abdou Tenkounao invited local dignitaries, partners and project participants to the RCA campus in Arusha, Tanzania for two days of visits and celebrations.

RCA’s labs, screenhouses and other facilities were recently refurbished—and a new auditorium constructed—with funds from Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). AVRDC Director General Dyno Keatinge walked the grounds with RCA staff and planted a tree next to the new auditorium on 21 November 2012. He also met with Regional Commissioner Magesse Mulongo, who showed great interest in RCA’s local activities and achievements. The commissioner urged RCA to collaborate with regional government groups, and challenged staff to help establish a vegetable processing industry in the region.

The Regional Center for Africa offers expertise in breeding vegetables with improved agronomic traits, particularly indigenous species such as African eggplant and amaranth. Farmers turn to RCA for advice on pest management and postharvest handling. From field days to business management training courses to participation in seed policy fora, the Regional Center’s activities are invigorating local, national, and continental seed systems.

RCA staff also train home gardeners and youth in vegetable production and equip them with skills that can be transformed into livelihoods. On 22 November, nearly 500 people gathered at RCA for the official anniversary celebration—including more than 400 youth and farmers that had participated in an RCA vegetable production training course funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) as part of its Tanzania Agriculture Productivity Program (TAPP). TAPP aims to develop clusters of commercial farms, smallholders, and agribusinesses in areas with high agricultural potential for fresh and processed fruit, vegetables, and spices. Abdou Tenkouano welcomed the visitors along with the guest of honor, Mohammed Said Muya, Tanzania’s Permanent Secretary of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives. Dyno Keatinge then presented the keynote address, officially opened the new facilities, and distributed graduation certificates to the TAPP participants.

RCA’s many successes are a credit to the hard work and perseverance of talented staff, who have cultivated enduring relationships along the vegetable value chain with farmers, consumers, seed producers, wholesalers and retailers, and forged fruitful partnerships with research institutions, governments, and civil society organizations. These overlapping networks are creating a foundation for a more sustainable and responsive agricultural system for Africa—one that will provide for the nutritional needs of the poor, strengthen the links between farmers and markets, and inform agricultural policy in a global economy challenged by climate uncertainty.