ZIMBABWE – The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has unveiled plans of establishing an incubation centre at the Matopos Research Station in Zimbabwe.

ICRISAT is a non-profit making organisation that conducts agricultural research for development in the dry lands of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

The India headquartered organisation also helps to empower disadvantaged communities to overcome poverty, hunger and environmental problems through better agricultural practices.

ICRISAT regional director, Moses Siyambi, said the new incubation hub will help emerging entrepreneurs test their ideas at a pilot level before venturing into full-scale production.

“Highly profitable crops such as horticultural crops may not have structured markets but together we can find solutions based on our knowledge and experience.

“As part of the revitalisation of our research work, we will establish an incubation centre through the South-South collaboration with the government of India,” said Siyambi.

Siyambi added that his organisation will continue to come up with researches tailor made to improve profitability in agriculture.

“Opportunities for farmers to explore various pathways out of poverty require the enabling environment that can be triggered by the right government policies.

“We are here to lend our support to the government in rethinking new ways of making agriculture profitable for farmers in dry land,” he said.

Siyambi also revealed that ICRISAT has availed US$3 million dollars for the revitalisation of the research centre.

“It is anticipated that this seed money will lead to renewed interest in dryland agriculture research in this part of Africa in an effort to start a new generation of researchers and farmers,” he said.

In Zimbabwe, the research insitution has also partnered with the Small Grains Producers Association (SGPA) in revamping a market-led production leading to food security, nutrition and rural empowerment.

Speaking during a visit to the institution, Zimbabwe’s First Lady Auxilia Mnangagwa, hailed the investment adding that the government is seeking to prioritise research in small grains.

“Development is anchored on research, production, processing, marketing and consumption. To successfully bring value to the small grains sector, we have to start with research.

“Multiple programmes have to be structured to expand research and production of seed. For the last nine years farmers in rural areas have been planting recycled seed resulting in poor yields,” she said Auxillia.

The small grains targeted include sorghum, millet, rapoko, groundnuts, sunflower, sugar beans, garlic, ginger and pepper.