Two former heads of state of Nigeria, Dr Yakubu Gowon, and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo will be among dignitaries that would grace the 50th anniversary celebration (IITA@50) of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan on 24 July. The two former heads of state will be addressing a gathering of more than 1000 staff including former and serving workers of the Institute and other dignitaries.
Other confirmed participants include Dr Akin Adesina, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB); Dr Kanayo Nwanze, Former President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote; Chair of United Bank for Africa, Tony Elumelu; Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, Burundi, Dr Deo-Guide Rurema; Former Prime Minister, Democratic Republic of Congo, H.E. Mapon Matata Mpoyo; IITA Alumni Representative, Mrs. Ayoka Lawani; Associate Vice President, IFAD, Dr. Perin Ange; the Representative of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Abuja, Dr. Audu Grema; Vice Chancellor, University of Ibadan, Prof. Abel Olayinka; and Oyo State Governor, Senator Isiaka Abiola Ajimobi.
Chair of the Planning Committee of IITA@50, Dr. Kwesi Atta-Krah described the event as a significant forum that would afford the Institute the opportunity to take a step back and reflect on its achievements, the challenges faced, and plans for the future.
Established in 1967 through partnership of Ford Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation of the United States, IITA is today the biggest international research institute on the continent of Africa working on Africa’s major staple crops such as cassava, maize, cowpea, yam, soybean and banana/plantain. The goal of the Institute is to increase the productivity of Africa’s key staples, create wealth, and sustainable jobs with a view to achieving zero hunger.
Dr. Atta-Krah said the participation of key stakeholders, signpost the importance of the event to Africa’s development. “This is an exciting time for us as we will be having in attendance Dr. Gowon who actually, as Head of State then, signed the decree in 1967, that formalised the creation of the Institute. It will be glad for him to see the changes that the Institute has had over the years. The same goes to the other dignitaries,” he added.
Dr. Kenton Dashiell, IITA Deputy Director for Partnership for Delivery said the celebration of IITA would provide a platform for the stakeholders to take a retrospect on the impact of IITA and specifically its role in Africa’s food security. “We want to see a more prosperous African continent, and this 50th anniversary is not just about celebration but re-strategizing,” he said.
So far a lot of interest and registration is going on from IITA alumni who plan to come in their numbers to Nigeria for the event. Most of the IITA alumni including Dr Adesina and Kanayo now hold important positions around the world. Dr. Dashiell said, “Our alumni are our greatest assets and contribution to Africa. Today, we are proud seeing them occupy key positions in the agriculture space and making impact.”