IITA and partners launched a new five-year seed yam system development project on 24 February 2017 at IITA-Ibadan conference center, Oyo State, Nigeria. The flagship initiative will ensure the timely availability of adequate quantities of high quality improved seed yam tubers on a commercial basis for smallholder farmers in Nigeria and Ghana.
Present at the inaugural event were the highest authorities and representatives from Context Global Development /SAHEL Capital, All Farmers Association Nigeria (AFAN); the National Agricultural Seed council (NASC), Abuja Nigeria; the National Root Crop Research Institute (NRCRI) ,Umudike, Nigeria; the National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (NACGRAB), Ibadan, Nigeria; Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate (PPRSD) Accra, Ghana; the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research-Crops Research Institute (CSIR-CRI) Kumasi, Ghana; the Savannah Agricultural Research Institute (CSIR-SARI) Tamale, Ghana; the Yam Development Council; IITA; and CEOs of three seed companies from Nigeria (Da Allgreen, Biocrops, Nwubudo) and one from Ghana (Heritage). The regional coordinator of CAY Seed Project and the Project Leader of AfricaYam also presented their Goodwill messages.
The unavailability and exorbitant cost of high quality improved seed yam is the foremost production constraint in West Africa. The formal seed yam system has been non-existent due to inefficient seed production, distribution, and quality assurance systems.
The issue of inadequate seed production has stalled yam development across West Africa. Yam multiplication ratios are low, and seed tubers are prone to contamination with pests and pathogens in the traditional systems of production. However, in the Yam Improvement for Income and Food Security in West Africa (YIIFSWA) new technologies such as the Temporary Immersion Bioreactor System (TIBS) and Aeroponics system (AS) were developed for high ratio propagation to address some of the challenges.
Chairing the occasion, Nteranya Sanginga IITA Director-General welcomed participants to IITA and urged participants, particularly implementing partners, to contemplate on how to reach the masses with seed yam.
“In 2011, when I was DG elect, I had the opportunity of meeting with Bill Gates during his trip to Nigeria. In our discussion he asked me how I was going to reach millions of farmers with Aflasafe and rhizobium technologies that we have developed. In response to his question we built the Business Incubation Platform (BIP) center to showcase how to produce inoculum and Aflasafe at scale. It is a factory and it is probably unique for the moment in Africa. We are not experts in marketing and commercialization so we had to link up with the private sector.
With the institution of enabling policies, the transformation was rapid across Africa. So now the question is can we do the same thing for yam? I know that we have reduced the breeding cycle for yam; we have new seed propagation technologies like Aeroponics. All these things are admirable. Can we do exactly the same thing for yam that we did for Aflasafe technologies? The aeroponics system in the screenhouse can produce seed tubers for 10 hectares; what will it take to produce seed for 200,000 hectares? How do we scale these technologies and what means are we going to use to do it?” Sanginga challenged project implementers.
In his introductory presentation of the project, Norbert Maroya stated that “YIIFSWA-II will be based on the implementation and out-scaling of key breakthroughs of YIIFSWA specifically, the use and promotion of novel high ratio propagation technologies, i.e., TIBS for pre-basic seed yam production by NARIs and AS for basic seed yam production by the private seed companies.
“To realize the vision of an economically sustainable, commercial yam seed system in Nigeria and Ghana the project through its partners will provide business advisory support towards the establishment of appropriate business models and strengthen the business skills of the private seed companies engaged in using AS for high quality basic seed production. This will be helpful particularly to women who are engaged or interested in seed production for commercial purposes” said Maroya.
Chief Tola Adepomola, Vice-president of root and tubers, AFAN, thanked the project for the much needed intervention. “I want to thank IITA and the Gates Foundation for this project. We farmers know what we go through to get seed yam. Seed is very scarce. This is a much needed intervention, getting improved seed tubers to farmers, I say thank you” he said.