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Transforming lives through science

Africa’s population is expected to reach 2.5 billion by 2050, creating a need to produce more food without degrading vital natural resources. In the year of its 50th anniversary, the International Potato Center (CIP) has organized this special event to discuss ways scientific innovations and partnerships can help ensure there is enough nutritious food and income opportunities for all Africans, especially young people.

Since its foundation in South America in 1971, CIP has become increasingly engaged in Africa. More than two thirds of the Center’s research and development activities are now conducted in and for Africa, and since 2010, CIP and partners have reached over 7 million African households, contributing to diet diversity, climate resilience, and livelihood opportunities. The SOAR Foundation estimated that each US dollar invested in such work has generated USD 10 of benefits.

Since Malawi offers excellent examples of CIP’s work, this event focuses on achievements there that can be replicated elsewhere on the continent. Experts from government, CGIAR, the private sector, and donor organizations will discuss options for enabling millions more farmers to improve their food production and lives with root and tuber crops, and thereby facilitate access to more affordable and nutritious food for people across sub-Saharan Africa.


September 13
16:30 (EAT; GMT+3)


Vivian Atakos



Vivian Atakos

Vivian Atakos is a Kenyan communications professional with years of experience in the research and development sector. She is the communications lead for the International Potato Center in Africa and supports the needs of the CGIAR Gender Platform.

Regional Communications Specialist, International Potato Center

Dr. Paul Demo

As regional director, Paul provides programmatic oversight for the research and development portfolio; provides leadership in regional operational systems; and represents CIP in Sub-Saharan Africa, with a focus on Kenya, Malawi, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Uganda, Ghana, Rwanda, Tanzania and Cameroon.

A Cameroonian national, Paul holds a Ph.D. and an M.S. in Agronomy from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria and a B.Sc. (Engineer) in crop production from the University of Dschang in Cameroon. He has over 28 years of experience and skills in agricultural research, research management, fundraising, project management, capacity development and management of public-private sector partnerships.

Prior to becoming regional director, Paul worked for CIP as a senior scientist and country manager in Malawi and as a regional potato expert for Sub-Saharan Africa (2003–2005). Before joining CIP, he worked as a scientist and leader of the Seed Potato Production Program at the Institute of Agricultural Research for Development (IRAD) Bambui Center in Cameroon (1990–2003).

Regional Director for Africa, International Potato Center

Ruairi de Burca

Ruairí is currently Director General, Development Cooperation and Africa Division in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Ireland.

A career diplomat, he was most recently Joint Secretary to the British-Irish Secretariat in Belfast, Northern Ireland (2014-17).  Prior to that, he was Ambassador of Ireland to Mozambique, Angola and Botswana (2010-14), and has also served abroad in Mexico, Spain and Greece.

At headquarters, Ruairí has worked on Northern Ireland, Western Balkans, Humanitarian Aid, and EU issues.  He has also worked in the Irish Department of Finance.

Director General, Irish Aid

Dr. Jane Ininda

Dr. Jane Ininda is Head for Seed Research and Systems Development at AGRA and leads crop research, seed production, and seed certification and regulatory interventions.  Her career  in agricultural science and development in Africa spans 30+ years.  She has led teams of professional crop breeders in Africa who have developed and released 685 resilient crop varieties; and supported development of 100+ private seed companies in Africa.  She has published 40 + research papers,  written book chapters, blogs and many impact stories in media.  Realizing the importance of forming strong alliances and sharing updated information and knowledge among agricultural scientists she founded key networks in crop breeding in Africa.   She has also featured the effects of food shortage in a film ‘Silent Killer-the unfinished Campaign against hunger’.  Jane holds a Ph.D. in Plant Breeding-Major, from Iowa State University, USA.  She is a recipient of the C.R. Weber Award in recognition for outstanding achievement in graduate study in Crop Science at Iowa State University, USA.

Head of Seed Research and Systems Development, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)

Dr. Regina Kapinga

Regina Kapinga is the Head of Advocacy and Resource Mobilization. Regina, a Tanzanian, holds a PhD in Agronomy (major – adaptive breeding and crop management, 1994) and an MSc in Crop Science (1988) from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. She obtained her BSc (major in Botany and Chemistry, 1984) at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Previously, she was the Senior Program Officer (2012–2015) and Program Officer (2009–2012) with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Seattle, Washington, United States. She held the post of Sweet Potato Breeder for sub-Saharan Africa and VITAA Partnership Program Coordinator (2001–2009) at the International Potato Center (CIP) – sub-Saharan Africa region in Kampala, Uganda. She had served as the Director of Research Coordination and Promotion at the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH, 2000-2001), and Root Crops Research Scientist and National Coordinator for Root and Tuber Crops Improvement Program (1984-2000) at the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Mwanza, Tanzania.

Head of Advocacy and Resource Mobilization, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)

Dr. Wilson Makumba

Dr. Wilkson Makumba is the Director of the Department of Agricultural Research Services (DARS), a technical department of Malawi’s Ministry of Agriculture mandated to conduct research and generate technologies. DARS has several research stations strategically located in Malawi’s different agro-ecological zones and is responsible for releasing improved crop varieties that improve agricultural productivity, incomes and nutrition. Previously, he worked as a National Research Coordinator for Soils and Agricultural Engineering as well as Station Manager for Chitedze Agricultural Research Station. He holds a PhD in Soil Sciences from Wageningen University, the Netherlands, and has published extensively in his area of specialization.

Director, Department of Agricultural Research Services, Malawi

Jean Pankuku

Jean Pankuku, is a food technologist with experience in processing, product development, food safety, nutrition, and project management. She is the current Board Chair for the Root and Tuber Crops Development Trust (RTCDT), Co-chair of the Scaling Up Nutrition Business Network (SBN) in Malawi, General Secretary for the Laboratory Association of Malawi, and APA Malawi 2022 Vice President. In 2017, she founded the Tehilah Bakery and Value Addition Centre, which produces and sells products made from locally grown crops, such as orange-fleshed sweetpotato bread. The business supports over 1000 sweetpotato farmers in the southern region and has over 30 retail outlets. Prior to this, Jean worked as a Food technologist for Universal Industries and was a manager for livelihoods and economic empowerment and nutrition projects for World Hope International. She has an M.Sc. in food Science and Technology from Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi Vishwavidyalaya and a B.Sc. from Bunda College of Agriculture.

Chair, Root and Tuber Crops Development Trust

Dr. Barbara H. Wells

Barbara H. Wells is an accomplished senior executive with extensive scientific and business experience in research, general management, strategic planning, regulatory processes, and the technical development and commercialization of products in agricultural and forestry markets throughout the world. She became Director General of the International Potato Center (CIP) in early 2014, an appointment in keeping with her ambition to improve the livelihoods of the world’s poor farmers and to advance CIP’s mission of improving food security and nutrition.

Barbara was recently named the Global Director of Genetic Innovations for CGIAR.

Director General,
International Potato Center
CGIAR Global Director for Genetic Innovation


Opening video clip from Malawi

Virtual survey of the audience

Dr. Wilkson Makumba, Director, Department of Agricultural Research Services, Malawi 

Four partners, four-part conversation (mins each) 

  • Dr. Regina Kapinga, Head of Advocacy and Resource Mobilization, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Tanzania  
  • Dr. Jane Ininda, Head of Seed Research and Systems Development, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)
  • Jean Pankuku, Private Sector innovator and Chair of Root and Tuber Crops Development Trust 
  • Dr. Paul Demo, Regional Director for Africa, International Potato Center

Questions and answers

Donor perspective: Ruairi de Búrca, Director General, Irish Aid

Closing remarks: Barbara Wells, Director General, International Potato Center

Transforming lives through science