Introduction

IITA has contributed to the improvement of African cropping systems productivity through the development of innovative technologies. The importance of the agricultural sector, which employs 2/3 of the population of sub-Saharan Africa, ensures that agriculture plays a key role in the continent's economic development (InterAcademy Council, 2004).

Agriculture is not just the sowing of a seed, nor the milking of a cow. It is instead a complex network of skills and expertise that begins with the conception of an idea for a specific agricultural product and is complete only when it nourishes a satisfied customer. This process can range from a farmer knowing when to plant her yam crop so that she can prepare a nutritious meal for her family following a bountiful harvest, to the investment in the infrastructure and organization needed for African pineapples to be marketed worldwide to consumers who are willing to pay a premium for quality products.

Agriculture is an information-intense industry. Producers plan their production based on economic opportunity, family responsibilities, resource limitations and their knowledge of the natural environment. Successful production requires an intricate set of knowledge-based decisions on the timing and rigor of management. Marketing decisions are influenced by local needs, regional markets, the possibility of local processing and the potential for post-harvest losses. Products that leave the farm are affected by the needs (and the opportu-

1 Address correspondence to [email protected].

© CAB International 2008. Mycotoxins: Detection Methods, Management, Public Health - 11 -and Agricultural Trade (eds. J. F. Leslie et al.).

Table 1. United Nations (2005) Millennium Development Goals and Targets

Goal 1 Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

Target 1. Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is < US$1.00 per day Target 2. Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger

Goal 2 Achieve universal primary education

Target 3. Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, both boys and girls, can complete a full course of primary schooling

Goal 3 Promote gender equality and empower women

Target 4. Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015

Goal 4 Reduce child mortality

Target 5. Reduce by two-thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate Goal 5 Improve maternal health

Target 6. Reduce by 75%, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality rate Goal 6 Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases

Target 7. Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS Target 8. Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases Goal 7 Ensure environmental sustainability

Target 9. Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs and reverse the loss of environmental resources Target 10. Halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation Target 11. Have achieved by 2020 a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers Goal 8 Develop a global partnership for development

Target 12. Develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, nondiscriminatory trading and financial system (includes a commitment to good governance, development, and poverty reduction - both nationally and internationally) Target 13. Address the special needs of the Least Developed Countries (includes tariff- and quota-free access for Least Developed Countries' exports, enhanced program of debt relief for heavily indebted poor countries and cancellation of official bilateral debt, and more generous official development assistance for countries committed to poverty reduction) Target 14. Address the special needs of landlocked developing countries and small island developing states (through the Program of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States and 22nd General Assembly provisions)

Table 1 (continued). United Nations (2005) Millennium Development Goals and Targets

Goal 8 Develop a global partnership for development

Target 15. Deal comprehensively with the debt problems of developing countries through national and international measures in order to make debt sustainable in the long term

Targets listed below may be monitored separately for the least developed countries, Africa, landlocked developing countries, and small island developing states

Target 16. In cooperation with developing countries, develop and implement strategies for decent and productive work for youth Target 17. In cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries Target 18. In cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications technologies nities they present) of transporters, consolidators, traders and the retailers who finally sell the item to a consumer. Beyond this network there are additional spheres of influence: input supply, government policy, regional trading networks and globalization. African agriculture is not simple, and should not be simplified for the sake of convenience.

The importance of African agriculture means that it must be given primary consideration if the Millennium Development Goals are to be met by 2015 (Table 1). The first goal is to reduce the number of people who live in poverty (with the specific measure of halving the number of people who live on US$ 1.00 per day or less). The interaction between agriculture and the natural resource base will directly affect the achievement of Millennium Development Goal (#7) of ensuring environmental sustainability. Successful development of new agricultural opportunities within Africa also will influence other Millennium Development Goals on nutrition, health care and education for vulnerable groups, e.g., children, women and those who face debilitating diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

Agriculture encompasses a multiplicity of stakeholders and systems that lead from the "field to the fork." Agricultural research has created important innovations around the world to address needs such as new cassava processing machineries to promote cassava as an industrial raw material or commercializing a bio-pesticide to combat desert locust or high-yielding maize cultivars with aflatoxin resistance. Such work also can capture diversification opportunities (Blade et al., 2002) and exploit new niches that develop within the agricultural sector. IITA works with partners within Africa and beyond to enhance crop quality and productivity to impact the lives of poor people within the continent (both rural and urban). In addition, the Institute develops technologies for Africans who possess the expertise, initiative and resources to go beyond food security and to produce enough food or fiber to realize a financial profit. If African agriculture is to serve as an engine of economic development, IITA understands that it also must produce research to model how industries and enterprises succeed (as well as maintain their success).

IITA researchers have responded to the immense impact that mycotoxins have on African populations through direct health effects as well as a potential trade limitation. IITA researchers have been actively seeking new maize genotypes that are less heavily colonized by mycotoxin producing fungi, biocontrol mechanisms to reduce the impact of toxigenic strains of fungi, and post-harvest management strategies to decrease the problems associated with myco-toxigenic fungal contamination. IITA research has led to partnerships that have brought attention to this issue across West Africa (including 10 million people in Ghana, Togo and Benin).

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