Once a reference of knowledge and progress in Africa, the Angolan Ministry of Agriculture’s Experimental Stations, Zootechnical Stations and Veterinary Laboratories were created even before the country’s independence, with the purpose of developing agriculture and livestock production through scientific research and innovation.
These public structures’ role in national food security bridged the gap between several support institutions to farmers and smallholders. By studying and experimenting the features and performance of different crop types and animal breeds, from sowing to post-harvest preservation, or from breeding to animal products’ quality control; by providing laboratorial analysis to crops and livestock, monitoring their epidemiological conditions and safeguarding plant and animal sanity; by providing farmers with best adapted seedlings or cubs, as well as advising them how to grow them efficiently – the research stations and laboratories complement and go beyond the research work of agronomical and veterinary universities and the rural extension services of the agrarian development institute.
Like farming activity itself and their productive structures, systems and techniques, the research centres were severely hit by the long years of armed conflict, which practically paralysed their activities for decades. The war brought poverty, hunger and food insecurity. It also paralysed education and training activities and drained young professionals and skilled technicians to the combat fronts.
16 years after the end of the war, the insufficient and inefficient food production in Angola is a problem unsolved, and the lack of skills among the agro-livestock workforce, smallholders and entrepreneurs remains as one of its’ causes. Green Innovations’ investee Agricultiva acknowledged that and proposed to help the Angolan Government to tackle this issue.
Aligned with SDG 2 Zero Hunger - to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture - Agricultiva chose the target of increased investment, through international cooperation, in rural infrastructure, agricultural research and extension services, technology development and plant and livestock gene banks, in order to achieve the intended impact of enhancing the capacities of Angolan producers to supply the populations with sufficient, quality and nutritional valued food produce.
This was made through a comprehensive intervention in 9 research centres of the Agrarian Development Institute and Veterinary Research Institute in 7 provinces: 4 Agriculture Experimental Stations, 4 Zootechnical Stations and 1 Veterinary Laboratory, which included construction / rehabilitation works (three of them totally built by Agricultiva) and full equipment to perform research, quality control and plant and animal sanity analysis.
Obviously, the human factor of research could not be neglected, and so Agricultiva provided advanced training to researchers and laboratory technicians across the country – not only from the 9 centres benefitting from infrastructure improvements and materials. Through this project, 211 researchers and technicians from 21 Agriculture and Veterinary Research Stations and 7 Veterinary Laboratories attended an advanced training program of 18 courses (15 in Angola and 3 in Israel) with an average of 84 training hours per course. The training program brought national and international experts to a series of seminars and workshops carried out in several provinces, which gathered technicians from across the country, according to the subjects.
The knowledge and experience exchange was an added value for the improvement of the technicians' scientific and technical knowledge and skills, as they got the chance to know other research stations in different geographic locations and learn a bit from their colleagues about how they dealt with different animal or plant species in such diversified climate and natural conditions.
Asked by Green Innovations’ impact assessment team about how they thought their work had changed since they got support from Agricultiva and attended the training courses, the general opinion of the trainees was very positive, as 86% of them referred to be satisfied or very satisfied with the training received(Graph 1). The usefulness of contents and the quality of the trainers were the main factors of satisfaction stated by the majority of the interviewed.
All of the trainees inquired felt confident they would apply the acquired training contents and techniques at their daily work, but only 59% said they already had (Graph 2). There was still some equipment missing, and some centres were still creating conditions for new research.
The practical application of the training contents would be reflected mainly in the methodology of research and, for almost 2/3 of the inquired, in the transmission of know how to local farmers, smallholders and livestock producers (the indirect beneficiaries of the project).
Indeed, some Research Centres more than others, have been assisting local farmers and livestock producers in animal sanity control (analysis and technical assistance) and advising them how to improve crop quality and efficient production. This assistance is more visible in the south of the country (in Provinces like Huíla and Huambo) and is still taking its’ first steps. From the technicians inquired,31% recognized having transferred knowledge acquired during training to over 660 local agro-livestock producers (Graph 3). They admitted this number would hopefully grow, as local farmers would get to know the services of the stations and laboratories and would start to request them more. It would be a slow but sustained process, determined by the response capacity of the research centres to the clients’ demands.
Carlos Xavier, Director of the Agriculture Experimental Station of Humpata, in Huíla Province,(pic) feels thankful and “blessed” for the post-harvest laboratory they have in the region, which he considers “unique, like a sleeping monster now waking up”. He is aware that “it's mainly up to us to dedicate ourselves – to start doing something, from speech to action. We are going to walk with our own legs and that won't depend on training - it will depend on our commitment. The laboratory services will have to get sustainability from the services we provide to farmers."
Carlos foresees further impacts of the Humpata Agriculture Experimental Station for the development of the region’s economy. He says “it's going to make the dreams of employment of the new generation come true, because we are going to need more experts in chemistry, biochemistry, laboratory analysts... and we are going to break the myth of people only wanting to study Law and work in banks, thinking that field work is for the poor. The children are going to be the first ones to have contact with these new possibilities.”