GIP Director Huaijun Zhou attended the Feed the Future Innovation Lab Council West Africa Regional Partners Meeting held February 6-8 2017 at the King Fahd Palace Hotel In Dakar Senegal. The objectives of the meeting were to draw together regional stakeholders, USAID country, regional and Washington staff and the Feed the Future Innovation Labs in order to:
1) Identify key agriculture and nutrition research priorities and needs for the region;
2) Examine human and institutional capacity needs and successful models;
3) Map current research and development programs against needs and priorities to identify synergies and gaps; and
4) Identify opportunities for collaboration within and between the Innovation Labs, Missions, and other research and development programs in the region.
The meeting assembled nearly 100 participants in a series of plenary presentations and discussions on the agricultural research and development programs in the region. These presentations initiated discussion on the needs, challenges and opportunities for improving their performance. Following the plenary presentations, four working groups assembled to refine further the needs, priorities, gaps and potential synergistic activities in a structured exercise. The working groups built upon the plenary presentations in each of the following four thematic areas and extended the discussion into strategies and potential partners: 1) Climate Resilience and Risk Management, 2) Crop Improvement Systems, 3) Food Safety and Nutrition and 4) Animals in Production Systems. A key message of this workshop is that there are many shared elements across the thematic groups. There is strong opinion that harvesting the genetic potential of plants and animals will be an important strategy to improve resistance against biotic and abiotic stresses that limit the productivity. Genetic enhancement was seen as a tool to increase food availability and quality and hence one avenue to improve nutrition. There is need for continued investment in the building of human and institutional capacity in these areas.