The Accelerated Varietal Improvement and Seed Delivery of Legumes and Cereals in Africa (AVISA) project was launched in February 2019 to work on the broad agenda of modernizing breeding and increasing incomes for smallholders in seven countries of Africa. Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, it builds on gains made by earlier initiatives funded by the Foundation – Tropical Legumes (TL), Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement for Sorghum and Millets (HOPE) and HarvestPlus. In partnership with National Agricultural Research Systems, AVISA includes the most important dryland cereals (sorghum and pearl millet) and legume crops (groundnut, common bean and cowpea) in Nigeria, Tanzania Burkina Faso, Mali, Uganda, Ghana and Ethiopia. Across the CGIAR consortium, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) partner to achieve the project objectives including:
AVISA will help create a robust system to enable the private sector to seize opportunities on commercialization of these crops. Overall use of high quality seed of improved varieties for dryland cereals and legume crops in Africa has been low, though there is emerging interest by the private sector to include these crops in their portfolio. The project is committed to gender equity as a guiding principle, ensuring women farmers have equal access to improved seed and exposing women farmers and other value chain actors to the material.
Efficient project management and reporting is an important mechanism achieved by a closely governed team with efficient planning, monitoring, evaluation, accountability, learning and scalability of AVISA.
The institutional leadership of ICRISAT, IITA and CIAT will leverage internal investments by these Centers through their own modernization agendas. Further investment backing will ensue through the CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals which shares the AVISA modernization imperative. Existing and new synergies with key downstream partners include AGRA and the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture. The European Union and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have committed to work together on a joint initiative to drive research and technical and organizational innovations across agricultural and food systems in developing countries to address some of the most pressing challenges posed by climate change. AVISA is part of the Foundation’s contribution to this commitment. It will collaborate with CIRAD, CORAF, and CERAAS on EU-Funded “Fostering breeding networks and institutional breeding capacity in West Africa to develop climate resilient crops for African smallholder farmers” (FONEWA) project under the “Development of Smart Innovation through Research in Agriculture” (DeSIRA) initiative.