Tag Archives: Nigeria

Promising New Technologies to Improve Cowpea Production in West Africa | Feed the Future USAID


August 21, 2012

Feed the Future | Science & Technology in Agriculture
Undamaged (left), superficially damaged (center), and severely damaged cowpea pods (right).


New insect-resistant varieties of the cowpea are helping to reduce significant losses in yield due to better technology to combat pest and diseases.

The cowpea (or black-eyed pea in the U.S.) is an important staple in the diet of more than 200 million households in sub-Saharan Africa. It is a robust plant able to withstand the low rainfall and poor soil conditions of the region, yielding protein-rich seed and providing valuable nutrition to its inhabitants, while also fixing nitrogen in the soil.

Unfortunately, African cowpea farmers suffer heavy yield losses (often over 80 percent) due to pests and diseases, and most significantly from an insect, Maruca vitrata, which destroys the seeds in the pods.

As conventional breeding has been unsuccessful in developing insect resistance in the cowpea, and smallholder farmers have limited access to costly insecticides, Feed the Future is working with partners to develop new approaches to manage maruca infestation. With support from Feed the Future, the African Agricultural Technology Foundation is developing an insect-resistant, bioengineered cowpea, and the Dry Grain Pulses Collaborative Research Support Program, led by Michigan State University, is working on bio control agents (or natural enemies of insect pests).

The insect-resistant varieties were developed using the same “Bacillus thuringiensis” or Bt technology that has been applied broadly in other crops around the world. Recent field trials of the Bt Cowpea technology in Nigeria and Burkina Faso have shown significant promise in maintaining yields in the face of insect infestations. Two promising Bt Cowpea varieties exhibited double the yield of the non-Bt control variety under insect pressure. As a next step, cowpea breeders are working to integrate Bt technology into farmer-preferred varieties, potentially making the Bt Cowpea available for widespread use within the next five years, pending regulatory approvals.

The bio control technology involves introducing a virus that attacks Maruca vitrata larvae inside the cowpea. Field trials are currently underway in Burkina Faso and a commercialized version of the virus is expected to be authorized in two to three years once the government has approved its use.

Both of these technologies are novel solutions under Feed the Future to improve cowpea production and combat insect infestation more effectively using fewer chemical fertilizers.

Source: Feed the Future


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Posted by on August 21, 2012 in ECOWAS, General


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Building the Seed Industry and Fighting Food Insecurity in West Africa | CNFA

Shop in Burkina Faso.

Building the Seed Industry and Fighting Food Insecurity in West Africa | CNFA 

With much of West African agriculture at a subsistence level, the majority of the land is cultivated by smallholder farmers, who often rely on saved seed or seed sourced through informal networks, sources which tend to be inconsistent in terms of quality, vulnerable to new pests and diseases and, while cheap, take up valuable land due to extremely low productivity. In addition, fertilizer or chemical inputs tend to be wasted on this seed. Therefore, although the cost of inputs may currently be low, the cost per ton of output is exceedingly high, profitability is low and smallholder farmers are trapped in a cycle of low productivity, which prevents them from generating a marketable surplus. Access to inputs such as improved seed varieties, fertilizer and crop protection products are imperative to the transformation of the agricultural sector from subsistence farming to small-scale commercial agriculture.

CNFA’s Seeds Project, part of the West Africa Seed Alliance (WASA), was created to enable the transformation of West African agriculture from mostly subsistence farming to profitable, self-sustaining and competitive commercial agriculture. The five-year project, funded primarily by USAID and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and implemented with partners ICRISAT and Iowa State University, is designed to modernize seed distribution systems, facilitate smallholder farmer access to improved seed varieties and complementary inputs, improve seed production technologies and strengthen links to credit and markets.

Specifically, the Seeds Project is strengthening West Africa’s seed system through three core intervention areas in the six target countries of Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal:

Improvement of Seed Policy Enabling Environment

CNFA leads the seed policy component, actively shaping West African policies to promote the interests of private sector growth and of the rural smallholder farmer. For example, in Ghana, CNFA aided in the successful implementation of a new Seed Law, which was designed to make the seed industry more robust and increase the active participation of the private sector in the seed production and development process, by holding workshops to inform and train seed producers on vital aspects of the legislation that will directly impact their activities and responsibilities under the law.

Seed System Development

The Seeds project is also working toward the successful development of a new seed system in West Africa based on higher-quality seed varieties and increased demand for improved inputs among farmers by implementing several new activities: production of breeder and foundation seed, which will ensure that new seeds used in these countries are genetically pure and will continue to produce commercially viable, high quality seeds in the future; production of certified seed, which ensures that farmers have access to quality inputs and that new seed varieties meet standards set by the government and other regulatory groups; testing of new and improved seed varieties for commercial use; creation of demonstration plots and farmer field days in order to increase farmer demand for improved inputs; and seed production trainings to provide farmers with necessary technical skills.

Strengthening of Input Supply Chains

The Seeds project also aims to improve input supply chains in order to increase farmer productivity, incomes and access to vital tools such as microfinance. This aspect of the project includes activities such as mapping and surveying to identify where seed producers and agrodealers are located, development of adapted financial products that meet the needs of agrodealers and smallholder farmers and demand-generation activities like farmer field days and demonstration plots.

Project Goals:

  • Advance the development, modification and implementation of national seed laws and regulations in the six Project target countries
  • Conduct seed variety trials and release in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal for cereals and vegetables
  • Produce foundation and certified seed and make available for distribution
  • Create and strengthen private seed enterprises throughout the target countries
  • Provide business management and technical training to at least 2,000 agrodealers and seed producers throughout the Project countries

Related CNFA articles

With Training, Mali Agrodealer Becomes Local Livestock Expert

Program Overview: West Africa Seed Alliance

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Posted by on August 13, 2012 in ECOWAS


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IITA inaugurates Central African hub in DR Congo


10 August 2012

DRC’s top government official, Mr. Emmanuel Libendele, cuts the tape

IITA has inaugurated its Central African hub with the commissioning of an official building in Kinshasa that will cover the west provinces of DR Congo and an office in Bukavu, in South-Kivu that will serve the entire Great Lakes subregion.

The Central African hub is the fourth hub established by the Institute. The East African hub has its operations in Tanzania; Southern African hub in Lusaka, Zambia; while the West African hub is based in Nigeria. The West African hub also hosts the headquarters of the Institute in Ibadan.

The hub concept aims to accelerate the Institute’s response to the different opportunities and threats to food security in sub-Saharan Africa.

At the inauguration of the hub, IITA Director General, Dr Nteranya Sanginga, said that the choice of DR Congo “is important because of the country’s agricultural potential, which serves as a focal point for research for countries of the Central African region.”

According to him, the inauguration of the building in Kinshasa is part of the Institute’s strategy for efficient delivery of research outputs and to ensure more effectiveness.

In Central Africa, IITA will work with national agricultural research systems such as Institut National pour l’Etude et la Recherche Agronomique (INERA), universities, nongovernmental organizations, farmers and the private sector.

Dr Sanginga said the establishment of the hub would also consolidate the long-time collaboration between IITA and partners in that region.

For instance, since 1974, IITA has been contributing in strengthening the capacity of INERA. Both institutions have been involved in the breeding of disease-resistant varieties of cassava against major diseases such as cassava mosaic virus. Such collaborations and many more will continue in the years ahead.

The Prime Minister of DR Congo, His Excellency Augustin Matata Ponyo, commended IITA for establishing the hub in DR Congo. He expressed optimism that with research, DR Congo could tap its agricultural potential for economic growth and development, and could feed the entire sub-Saharan Africa.

In addition to improved varietal development, IITA and INERA research activities will focus on natural resource management to boost crop production and to improve livelihoods.

Dr Sanginga was accompanied by Prof. Paul Mafuka (INERA Director General and IITA Board member) and Dr Nzola Mahungu (IITA DRC Country representative).


CGIAR ( is a global agriculture research partnership for a food secure future. Its science is carried out by the 15 research centers who are members of the CGIAR Consortium in collaboration with hundreds of partner organizations. IITA is a member of the CGIAR Consortium.

IITA ( is an international non-profit research-for-development organization established in 1967 and governed by a Board of Trustees. We work with partners in Africa and beyond to enhance crop quality and productivity, reduce producer and consumer risks, and generate wealth from agriculture. Our award-winning research for development is anchored on the development needs of tropical countries.
IITA is a member of the CGIAR Consortium.

From IITA Press Release: For information, please contact:Godwin Atser,



Posted by on August 12, 2012 in ECOWAS


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Saving Africa’s maize and cowpea from the violet vampire | IITA

Striga plant, a parasitic weed

Striga plant, a parasitic weed (Photo credit: IITA Image Library)

Striga bilabiata, nahe Gaoua, Burkina Faso.

Striga bilabiata, nahe Gaoua, Burkina Faso. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Source IITA – Ibadan, Nigeria

Agricultural researchers in sub-Saharan Africa are making progress towards ridding the region of the deadly parasitic weed—Striga that infests cereals such as maize and cowpea farms—by developing sustainable, multi-pronged management options that smallholder farmers could effectively and profitably deploy in their farms.

Striga is a crop parasite that is considered to be one of the biggest constraints to agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa. Also known as the violet vampire because of the beautiful violet flowers it produces, the Striga weed mostly affects cereals such as maize and legumes such as cowpea grown in the region. Farmers regularly lose 40 to 100 percent of their crops, with total losses amounting to about US$1.2 billion every year and affecting the livelihoods of more than 25 million smallholder farmers.

Like a vampire, the pest sucks and drains its host of water and vital nutrients to the point that the infested plant withers and dies. What makes Striga much more deadly is that it does most of its damage underground, even before emerging and being visible to farmers above the soil surface. By the time the weed and its tell-tale violet flowers appear, it’s already too late― there is not much that farmers can do to save their crop.

Striga produces hundreds of thousands of seeds per plant, leading to massive build-up in the soil that can remain viable for many years. To control this parasitic weed, farmers commonly use cultural methods and post-emergence herbicides, which are largely ineffective in protecting the crop as most of the damage has already been done below the ground/underground. Although this may provide some relief against Striga, the herbicides are nonselective, and are too costly and unavailable for most farmers to use in the long run.

In June 2011, a private public partnership coordinated by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), launched a collaborative effort known as the Integrated Striga Management in Africa (ISMA) project, to develop a package of Striga control options for smallholder farmers in Kenya and Nigeria. The project is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and is being implemented in partnership with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe), African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), BASF Crop Protection, and national agricultural research and extension services and private sector players in Kenya and Nigeria. ISMA’s main goal is to promote proven Striga management technologies that can be deployed and work in smallholder farming conditions.

The four-year project focuses on improving access to Striga control solutions that include using Striga-resistant maize and cowpea varieties, deploying a “push-pull’ technology that involves intercropping cereals with specific Striga-suppressing forage legumes, using maize varieties resistant to Imazapyr—an herbicide used in coating the maize seeds (StrigAway®) and which kills the Striga seed as it germinates and before it can cause any damage— encouraging maize-legume intercropping and crop rotation; and adopting Striga biocontrol technologies. A significant component of the ISMA project is the identification of best-bet combinations of the available Striga control options for specific socio-ecological targeting.

“The suite of integrated Striga control interventions being promoted by ISMA will generate an estimated US$8.6 million worth of maize and cowpea grain annually in project sites in Kenya and Nigeria,” Mel Oluoch, ISMA project manager said.

“We are also optimistic that the interventions will lead to 50 percent more yields in maize and more than double the cowpea harvest in Striga-infested areas. About 250,000 farmers will directly benefit from the project,” he added.

One year on, the initial outputs of the ISMA project have been encouraging. In Kenya, almost 6,000 farmers in the western region now have access to new Striga and the Imazapyr-resistant (IR) variety and maize-legume intercrop Striga control technologies. Partner seed companies have produced 66 tons of seeds that use Imazapyr herbicide-resistant maize coating technology, with over 35 tons disseminated to more than 23,000 smallholder farmers through participating agro-dealer networks. To enhance IR seed production and distribution in Kenya, the project supported the Kenya Seed Company with a dedicated seed ‘treater’ early this year. IR-maize coating technology, combined with the use of Striga-resistant maize varieties, reduce the emergence of the parasitic weed by up to 60 percent. To complement the approaches, over 75 agro-dealers in Kenya were trained on the IR maize seed technology to enhance its dissemination as they are the first point of contact with farmers purchasing seed.

As part of the push-pull Striga management technology being espoused by the project, community seed producers and partner seed companies have produced and disseminated some 2.1 tons of Desmodium seed to farmers. Desmodium is a forage legume that, when deployed in maize or cowpea farms as intercrop, can significantly reduce the incidence of Striga by up to 100 percent within two years. The project has also trained more than 8,000 farmers on the push-pull technology, with 6,800 of them using it in their farms. The project is also working with the Ministry of Agriculture in Kenya to mainstream the use of Striga control technologies into the Ministry’s extension program so as to reach more farmers.

In Nigeria, the project worked with 100 communities in Striga hotspots in Kano and Bauchi States and established 500 on-farm demonstrations of improved cowpea, maize, and soybean varieties along with Striga management technologies.

About 500 tons of certified seed of Striga-resistant maize varieties were produced by participating seed companies and community-based seed producers and distributed to project beneficiaries. These open-pollinated varieties and hybrids are proven to produce 30 to 75 percent more grain, reduce Striga damage by 20 to 50 percent, and lessen Striga incidence by 22 to 88 percent compared to the commonly grown farmers’ varieties and commercial hybrids. On the other hand, these partner seed companies and community seed producers have also produced some 142 tons of certified seeds of Striga-resistant cowpea varieties, with almost 80 tons sold to farmers across 100 communities in the two states.

The project has trained some 3,500 farmers on group dynamics, participatory approaches, modern crop management, and Striga control practices in Northern Nigeria. In addition, the project has also disseminated Striga management technologies to about 38,000 Nigerian farmers through farmer-to-farmer knowledge transfer, on-farm demonstrations, field days, and radio.

Researchers working under the ISMA project also conducted field evaluation of the effectiveness of biocontrol technology against Striga in maize farms of Northern Nigeria. Their findings show that the biocontrol agent and resistant maize combination reduced Striga incidence by 26 to 60 percent and also resulted in 68 percent more yield compared to farms that grew farmer-preferred varieties alone.

The successful models in the two countries will be scaled out to other sub-Saharan Africa countries with similar ecologies and where Striga is also a major concern to maize and cowpea production systems.


Posted by on July 12, 2012 in ECOWAS, General


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China’s hybrid millet possible solution to Africa’s food shortages | Xinhua

Map of African countries by population density

Map of African countries by population density (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

BEIJING, March 10 (Xinhua) — A new variety of China-bred hybrid millet has yielded bumper harvests on trial plantation in some African countries, with its output at least doubling that of local millet varieties.

The millet variety, dubbed ZHM, is the result of 30 years of research led by Chinese scientist Zhao Zhihai, who is lauded the “father of hybrid millet” in China.

Millet is the staple food for many African countries, and experts said that if the Chinese variety of millet is popularized on the continent, it could provide a credible solution to food shortages that have long been haunting African countries.

On the sidelines of China’s ongoing parliamentary session, Zhao told Xinhua that his team would travel to several agricultural countries in Africa to promote the hybrid millet.

Zhao, a deputy of the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislature, is a research fellow at an agricultural science institute located in Zhangjiakou city in north China’s Hebei Province.

In 2007, his “Zhang Hybrid Millet” (ZHM) recorded an output of 810 kilograms per mu.

The next year, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization introduced a pilot plantation of the ZHM to ten African countries including Ethiopia, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, and Senegal.

“Millet is staple food in many African countries. The success of the ZHM’s pilot plantation promises good prospects for its mass production in Africa,” said Zhang Zhongjun, assistant to the FAO representative to China.

For full article read: China’s hybrid millet possible solution to Africa’s food shortages.

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Posted by on April 13, 2012 in General


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Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation loses patience with African Governments spending on Agriculture

At the launch of a $12.2 million Yam Improvement program, — a partnership with the CGIAR center IITA based in Ibadan, Nigeria; the UK’s Natural Resources Institute (NRI); Kenya based Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA); Catholic Relief Services (CRS); and with government agricultural research departments in Ghana and Nigeria– Global Development Officer for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Regina Kapinga referring to African yam yields, said “there is no major concern being shown by the governments to checkmate its steady decline.”  She went on to indicate that private foundations and non-profit organisations are disillusioned by the lack of meaningful resource commitments and interest in agricultural development by some African governments.  This could result in these organisations slowing or refraining from providing grants to African agriculture.

For further information on the story and launch of the Yam improvement program read: Africa: Govts Apathys Threatening Agricultural Development Financing.


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Posted by on April 9, 2012 in ECOWAS


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Nigeria releases vitamin A cassava to improve public health for millions

Photo Credit: IITA

The Nigerian Government announced in December, the release of three new vitamin A-rich ‘yellow’ cassava varieties that could provide more vitamin A in the diets of over 70 million Nigerians who eat cassava every day. The yellow color – cassava is generally white – is due to the higher vitamin A content.

Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is widely prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa. It afflicts almost 20% of pregnant women and about 30% of children under-five in Nigeria. VAD can lower immunity and impair vision, which can lead to blindness and even death.

Children and women will be the main beneficiaries of these new yellow varieties, which could provide up to 25% of their daily vitamin A needs. Varieties with enough vitamin A to provide up to half of daily needs are already in the breeding pipeline and should be ready for release in a few years.

These new yellow varieties were bred using traditional (non-transgenic) methods by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the Nigerian National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) and were liked by farmers during field trials. Cassava is an extremely adaptable crop; it is drought tolerant, requires limited land preparation, and grows well in poor soils. The new yellow varieties are also high yielding and resistant to major diseases and pests.

“Demand for these varieties has already started, but it will take some time before we have enough quantities to give out,” said Paul Ilona, the HarvestPlus Manager for Nigeria.

The yellow cassava is already being multiplied through stem cuttings. In 2013, when sufficient certified stems are available, HarvestPlus and its partners will initially distribute these to about 25,000 farming households. Farmers will be able to grow these new vitamin A varieties and feed them to their families. They can also multiply and share cuttings with others in their community amplifying the nutritional benefits. After the mid-2014 harvest, more than 150,000 household members are expected to be eating vitamin A cassava.

This work is funded by HarvestPlus, which leads a global effort to breed and disseminate micronutrient-rich staple food crops to reduce hidden hunger in malnourished populations. Other partners include the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), and Nigerian Government agencies. HarvestPlus is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Improved Nutrition and Health, which is coordinated by CIAT and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Prevalence of vitamin A deficiency. Red is mos...

Global Vitamin A Deficiency. Image via Wikipedia

Source: CGIAR Consortium, Jan 13, 2012

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Posted by on January 29, 2012 in ECOWAS


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