FARA collaborator Prof Walter S. Alhassan was in November 2008 elected the new Chair of the AATF Board of Trustees. Following is an excerpt from an interview with Prof Alhassan, a founder member of the AATF, on the organisation’s past, present and future.
What are the key challenges you see ahead for AATF and its partners?
I can see AATF growing, but the biggest challenge I foresee here is funding. So far we have an annual budget of about 17 million US dollars. Most of this money is coming from donors, but we are not seeing much input from our very own African governments. So the challenge is how to achieve sustainable funding to complement what the donor community can bring in.
But the good thing is that with the support from donors, we are developing products that can be seen. Take the case of maize. The herbicide-resistant maize is being deployed against Striga in East Africa and producing real benefits for farmers. In West Africa, we are talking to governments about bio-fortification of sorghum, a major crop in West and Central Africa. These products will help us convince our partners, the African governments and regional organizations, that there is need to put in money into what AATF is doing.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. We deliberately start with products because it is proof that the AATF concept can work. But we are not only focusing on products. Our African scientists are actually participating in developing these products and in the process, they and their institutions are gaining the capacity to handle such products and deploy them to benefit farmers in Africa.
The projects are also building the capacity in the private sector which will market the products locally. Once governments realize that we don’t just bring products from outside but that these go through the national research systems, they will be interested in our activities and products. (Read the full interview)
Related blogpost: Saturday, 31 January 2009: Drought-Tolerant Maize for Africa