Use fertilizer to boost yield: key message during Babati Farmers’ Field Days

Inorganic fertilizers have a bad name in Babati and are accused of ruining soils. Therefore dispelling this myth and urging farmers to use them to boost their production was one of the key messages at a Farmers’ Field Day held in Babati District , 21 – 22 May 2014.

The guest of honor at the event Hon. Cade Mshamu, the Babati District’s Administrative Secretary, appreciated all the efforts by the researchers and partners of the Africa RISING program and encouraged farmers to make the best use of the new technologies being demonstrated to better their future.

Cade Mshamu, the Babati district's administrative secretary speaks to a farmer, taking part in the project's demonstrations, and his family
Cade Mshamu, the Babati district’s administrative secretary speaks to a farmer, taking part in the project’s demonstrations, and his family

He especially urged the farmers to stop holding on to their misguided belief that using fertilizers destroys soils and makes them unproductive.
“We have seen and heard from farmers in Seleto who have used the fertilizer as recommended by the project and have increased their yield to 5.2 tons of maize compared to only 2 tons by those who did not use fertilizer,” he said. “Therefore you need to disregard the myths on the use of fertilizer since they have been proven wrong by our agricultural scientists. And we have observed from the demonstration plots that fertilizer enriches the soil with nutrients and makes it more productive.”

Elizabeth Stanislaus sharing on her farming experience with the Africa RISING project
Elizabeth Stanislaus sharing on her farming experience with the Africa RISING project

Elizabeth Stanislaus, a mother of three and one of the farmers on whose farms trials to compare the new improved varieties and better farming methods are being conducted, has tested the use of fertilizer and improved seeds on a part of her farm. She reported she has seen a marked difference in the yield compared to her usual way of planting using manure only.
“I have tried out one of the new improved varieties, SC 627 with Minjingu Mazo fertilizer. The yields were very good. And it was profitable.”
pauloPaulo Johackim, another farmer from Sabilo village, who has used fertilizers and improved seeds also remarked on the difference: “In January I planted one of the new improved varieties, Pioneer 532 and applied DAP (Diammonium phosphate) fertilizer. The results are impressive. I advise my fellow farmers to engage in modern farming methods.

However he also pointed out the cost implications of fertilizers. “DAP and Minjingu Mazao are more expensive and this sometimes discourages farmers from adopting them,” said Mr Paulo Johackim; “ I therefore request the government to look into the cost of the seeds and other farming resources, since the expenses are high and discouraging to most farmers.”

On the heels of Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease (MLND)

Dr. MacDonald Bright Jumbo from CIMMYT, Kenya, briefed the farmers on the MLND and its symptoms.
Dr.  Jumbo explaining to farmers the MLND and its symptoms.

Arica RISING researchers are also looking into the Maize Lethal Necrosis Disease, a viral disease that is caused by maize chlorotic mottled virus (MCMV) and sugarcane mosaic virus (SMV). The disease has become a threat to Seleto and Mafuta villages of Babati region. It can cause up to 100% yield loss.

During the field day Dr MacDonald Bright Jumbo from CIMMYT, Kenya, briefed the farmers on the disease and its symptoms. He said the project was conducting trials for different varieties to identify those with resistance to the diseases.

He however urged the farmers to be vigilant and to notify agricultural officers as early as possible if they detected the disease on their farms to stop it from spreading.

The participants at the event included Professor Bekunda Mateete (IITA), Dr. Lyimo Stephen (SARI) , Dr. Kotu Bekelee (IITA), Dr. MacDonald Jumbo (CIMMITY), District Officers, Extension Officers and farmers. Also present were journalists from various media houses in the country.

Story by Eveline Massam

Thinking agribusiness along the value chains

Integrating agribusiness along the value chains could facilitate the adoption of innovations among small-scale farmers and in turn help improve their livelihoods, says Dr Gbassey Tarawali, Representative of the Director General & Deputy Director General (Partnerships & Capacity Development) in Abuja.While giving his contract review on “Exploring Agribusiness Opportunities in the Cassava Value Chain through Public-Private-Partnerships for Food Security and Improved Livelihoods,” Dr Tarawali argued that only the inclusion of business elements in agriculture could guarantee sustainability.

“Agribusiness,” he said, “offers realistic opportunities for food security, job and wealth creation for young people.”

He noted that interventions to resource-poor farmers should go beyond lifting them out of subsistence farming to building their capacities to generate wealth and create jobs.

Dr Tarawali also underscored the need for greater cooperation between IITA and the players in the public and private sectors, stressing that the challenge to food security could not be addressed by one organization.

He also reviewed his accomplishments, challenges and future plans, while serving IITA as the Head of Onne/Abuja stations, Representative of the Director General & Deputy Director General in Abuja; a member of the of the IITA Youth Agripreneurs project and also Project Coordinator of the Cassava Value Chain project.

He highlighted the successes recorded by the projects: IITA-WASCO and IITA-Nestlé (both projects under his management), the challenges and lessons learnt for the future dissemination of IITA’s technologies, especially in cassava.

Farmers satisfied with IITA-ISMA technologies — study

A perception study on improved technologies being promoted by the Integrated Striga Management in Africa (ISMA) project shows that farmers in targeted communities where the project is being implemented are satisfied with the performance of the technologies. Many have adopted improved management practices to combat Striga.

Striga—otherwise known as witch weed remains a menace on cereals and legumes farms. The reduction to crop yields is estimated at costing $1.2bn in sub-Saharan Africa. ISMA Project, which is being implemented by IITA in partnership with CIMMYT, icipe, BASF Crop Chemical, AATF and national partners in Kenya and Nigeria is advocating improved technologies including better management practices to curtail the devastation on farms.

Such technologies include the following: cultural practices such as intercropping maize with legumes (soybean and groundnut); crop rotation of maize with soybean; a “push-pull” technology that involves intercropping cereals with Striga-suppressing Desmodium forage legume; using Striga-resistant varieties of maize and  cowpea; using maize varieties resistant to Imazapyr (IR)—a BASF herbicide (StrigAway®) and Metsulfuron Methyl (MSM) – a Dupont herbicide  which are coated on the maize seeds and which kills the Striga; and the adoption of  biocontrol technologies which uses a Striga host-specific fungal pathogen (Fusarium oxysporum).

Dr Mel Oluoch, ISMA Project Manager, during his contract review gave a snapshot of results from the intervention with the majority of the farmers (about 75 percent) in project intervention areas in Bauchi State of Northern Nigeria rating varieties being disseminated by the project as “very good” in terms of purity, germination and Striga resistance.

The implementation of the project in Nigeria has also increased the farmers’ knowledge of how to better control Striga, the study revealed. But even more importantly, after three years of project implementation, the project has a positive impact on the lives of farmers in the target communities with very high adoption of some of the technologies being disseminated. Despite the successes being recorded, Dr Oluoch noted that more still needed to be done to amplify the benefits of the project.

African organizations unite to address the threat of a dangerous form of Fusarium wilt of banana

An  African  consortium of international researchers and growers, backed by policymakers in regional blocs of eastern and southern Africa has declared “war” against Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense tropical race 4 (Foc TR4), a highly pathogenic form of the banana Fusarium wilt, previously confined to Asia, but recently introduced to a farm in northern Mozambique.

FoC TR4 (also known as Panama disease) is caused by a fungal strain that can survive for decades in the soil, and once introduced to a country has never been previously eradicated. Production of Cavendish types of banana which dominate export markets, and some other local forms of banana, has been devastated across Asia, no thanks to Foc TR4.

Its introduction to Africa, probably by infected planting material by people, has already had a massive impact on the commercial plantation in Mozambique, and efforts are in place to contain the disease on this farm, to avert further spread and to prepare other African countries against similar incursions, says Dr Fen Beed, Plant Pathologist with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).

To manage the disease outbreak and to prepare African countries reliant on banana for food security and income generation, a stakeholder workshop of the African Consortium for Foc TR4 (AC4TR4) was held in Stellenbosch, South Africa, 23-24 April 2014, on the theme: Development of a Strategy to address the threat of Foc TR4 in Africa. Representatives from the following organization took part: Southern African Development Community (SADC), The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC), Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), National Plant Protection Organizations (NPPO), IITA, Bioversity International, Stellenbosch University, national research organizations, and commercial growers.

Recommendations from the workshop have now been harmonized. A major output has been “The Stellenbosch Declaration on addressing the threat of Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense tropical race 4 (Foc TR4) to banana production in Africa,” convened by SADC and COMESA, signed by member states and endorsing institutions.

This unique Declaration aims to combine forces to curtail the introduction and spread of Foc TR4 in Africa and in particular to achieve the following:

  • Fully develop and implement a continental strategy under the direction of an African Foc TR4 task force to contain the incursion of Foc TR4 in the Nampula   province of Mozambique and prevent similar incursions elsewhere.
  • Provide and enhance technical capacity on the continent, and to implement and monitor phytosanitary systems, including wider use of International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPMs) and other matters concerning plant health to address the threat of Foc TR4 in Africa.
  • Report and map electronically by means of a web portal any new outbreaks of Foc TR4 in African member states and communicate information on new outbreaks, successful containment, and prevention initiatives.
  • Establish recognition that Foc TR4 is a continental issue that requires coordination and collaboration between NPPOs, RECs, ICPs, research institutions, universities, governments, and other relevant stakeholders throughout Africa by means of regular meetings and consultations.
  • Develop and apply appropriate diagnostic services, provide training, raise awareness, monitor disease spread, and screen banana germplasm for Foc TR4 resistance for deployment by vulnerable banana growers.
  • Call upon African and international organizations to recognize and support the activities of AC4TR4 by investing in research, awareness programs, human capacity, and infrastructure development on the continent.
  • Develop a regional Pest Risk Analysis document and a set of phytosanitary measures to be enforced by member states to prevent the introduction and spread of Foc TR4 and other quarantine pests of banana.
  • Encourage governments in Africa to formulate the necessary legislation and to implement the required activities to protect the crops of vulnerable farm owners against destructive exotic pests.Dr Fen Beed of IITA and Dennis Ochola of Bioversity at the Foc TR4 afflicted farm in northern Mozambique

Capital base of IITA CICS climbs to $1.94 million

The Staff Cooperative Investment and Credit Society (CICS) Limited of the institute which was formed on 1 February  2004 to create wealth and empower its members marked its 10th year anniversary and also had its Annual General Meeting on 26 May at the Conference Center in Ibadan. The event also provided a platform to review the achievements of the society in the previous year.

Since the formation of the society, it has been observed that membership has increased yearly.  Today, membership is currently at 956 from 612 in 2012, representing a 56% increase. According to the report of the President of the society, Ali Adeleke, the increment in membership has also led to an over 70% increase in the capital base of the society from N10.5 million in 2004 to a laudable sum of N310 million ($1.94), while the “Excess of income over expenditure” rose to N30 million ($187,500) in only about 10 years.

Speaking at the opening, Adeleke welcomed all cooperative members while affirming that the vision of establishing the society is still alive. “This society has brought about a positive change in the socioeconomic development of its members and has projected the image of IITA to the public. We will continue to train and retrain our members through seminars and workshops to better their lot’’ he said.

This year’s celebration was attended by officers from the Ministry of Cooperatives and Commerce and OSCOFED who advised members to use the cooperative as a springboard for retirement, while enjoining the management to ensure a control mechanism was put in place to secure the interests of its members.DSC_2009

Impact of IITA’s maize germplasm in Africa higher than imagined


Improved maize germplasm developed by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and disseminated across Africa is improving livelihoods, and the impact on the continent is greater than earlier imagined, according to the President of the International Corn Foundation, Dr Soon Kwon Kim.

In a seminar organized by IITA West Africa Hub today (6 June 2014) entitled: “Promotion of IITA maize streak resistant (SR) varieties and Striga tolerant or resistant (STR) varieties to ten African countries with Korean Government Support,” Dr Kim reviewed the contribution of maize streak resistant varieties and Striga tolerant or resistant varieties across the continent.

Probably the most devastating disease that attacks maize in Africa, maize streak virus (MSV), leads to stunting, and farmers may lose 100 percent of the crop. Striga (a parasitic weed), on the other hand, attacks cereals and legumes and losses are in the neighborhood of US$8bn, endangering the livelihoods of millions of farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.

Dr Kim who is currently also Chair-Professor, Handong Global University, Pohang, South Korea had worked at IITA at a time when MSV ravaged maize farms in sub Saharan Africa (SSA), and he was part of the team that developed the maize streak resistant varieties. The work earned IITA the first King Baudouin award. The team also made remarkable breakthroughs in developing Striga tolerant/resistant maize varieties.

Dr Kim noted that after the development of those varieties, IITA with funds from the Korea International Cooperation Agency , and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of South Korea, promoted them in Bénin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Togo with the joint efforts of FAO-PASCON (Pan African Striga Control Network) and the Semi-Arid Food Grain Research and Development (SAFGRAD) project.

But beyond these countries, several other African countries have benefited from this work.

For example, Dr Kim recalled that Kenya’s maize that was ravaged by streak virus two/three years ago, recovered after germplasm from IITA resistant to the disease was introduced.

He called on IITA to do a more in-depth study that would put into perspective the contribution of IITA improved maize varieties across the continent.

Dr Kim also shared some thoughts on the way forward for Africa’s agriculture, stressing the need for sustainable intensification that would not abuse the natural resource endowment of the continent.

He lauded IITA’s research approach that integrates more than one trait in the breeding objective and also called on African governments to invest in IITA.

“If we adopt and use IITA’s approach to breeding, we will solve Africa’s problems… My suggestion has always been that IITA should be given the first consideration when it comes to funding in Africa,” he said.

Dr Sam Ajala commended Dr Kim for his work in helping the maize program in Africa in particular and global maize research in general, stressing that most of the high yielding maize varieties grown in the continent were built on past efforts/foundation laid by Dr Kim.

Though he left IITA 17 years ago, Dr Kim has kept touch with IITA and the Nigeria’s Maize Association.

The President of the Maize Association of Nigeria, Pastor O.A. Adenola, praised Dr Kim’s efforts and passion for improved livelihoods of farmers. He said the support to research given to maize by the government was partly because of Dr Kim’s advocacy for more attention to maize especially in Nigeria.1112

IITA Central Africa launches new research facility

IITA and partners launched a research center in Kalambo, Bukavu, South Kivu province in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) yesterday (5 June 2014) that would deal with emerging challenges in the agricultural sector.

The DRC Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Hon. Jean Chrisostome Vahamuitsi, representing the DRC President, His Excellency Joseph Kabila Kabangi, commissioned the center with the Republic of Burundi’s Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, Her Excellency Odette Kayitesi, in an event that was attended by more than 200 stakeholders consisting of policy makers, representatives of the donor community, development practitioners, partners, researchers, private sector representatives, and farmers from within and outside of the country.

The IITA Kalambo research center includes a state-of-the-art laboratory, machine fabrication shop, and crop processing and training facilities that would support agricultural development in the country and the Central Africa region as a whole. It was constructed with partial support from the African Development Bank-funded project called Support to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops (SARD-SC).

During the launch, the DRC Agriculture Minister expressed his government’s happiness in hosting the IITA research center in South Kivu.

“We welcome this research center in our midst and are happy to host and support a facility that would help build the capacity of researchers and farmers in DRC and the region. Such a facility would help the country and the region as a whole in addressing pressing agricultural challenges that prevent the production of more food for the region’s teeming populations.”

In a press briefing held earlier in Bukavu, the South Kivu Governor Marcellin Cishambo said that “agriculture is the most important sector in DRC, providing 42% of the country’s GDP and employing over half of the population.”

“However, out of our 80 million hectares of potential agricultural land, only approximately 10% is being used,” he said. “The government is therefore very keen to develop this sector to diversify and catalyze the overall economic development of the country.”

Also during the press briefing IITA Director General Dr Nteranya Sanginga noted that the Central Africa region would become an important bread basket for the continent by tackling some of the problems of smallholder farmers in the region through research.

“With this new center, together with our partners in the region, we are now better equipped to handle the existing and the new emerging challenges to agriculture through research,” Dr Sanginga said. “Research alongside education is one of the most important investments in any country seeking socioeconomic transformation.”

Also speaking at the press briefing, the IITA Director for Central Africa, Dr Bernard Vanlauwe, said: “We are working with farmers to increase their agricultural production on the same piece of land to reduce and ensure food security for densely populated areas and reduce the deforestation in forested areas.  This is through introducing smart farming practices―including use of high-yielding improved varieties and better farming practices including soil fertility management.”

The launch program included a tour of the facilities and an exhibition of products and research outputs by researchers and agricultural entrepreneurs (“agripreneurs”) from IITA’s Central Africa hub and stations. Scientists and young researchers talked about their work on the following research themes: tackling pests and diseases; increasing productivity; improving nutrition; adding value; and other initiatives that included ongoing work on biocontrol, natural resources management, and “agripreneurship”.

Last year, IITA had launched a similar facility in its eastern Africa office in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; and laid the foundation stone for its facility in Southern Africa in Lusaka, Zambia. The construction of science and training centers in the hubs are all in line with the institute’s new refreshed strategy and its vision of becoming a leading research partner facilitating solutions to hunger and poverty in Africa.Slide1 (5)

IITA and NARES to strengthen ties

IITA and director generals/representatives of national agricultural research and extension systems (NARES) in Africa held a meeting in Ibadan to seek ways to strengthen partnerships.

The meeting was held after the “Conceptualization Workshop on Engagement of Youth Entrepreneurship for Agricultural Transformation in Africa” in IITA Ibadan.

Eleven DGs or their representatives from 11 African countries attended the meeting.

The main objective of the meeting was to review IITA’s relationship with NARES partners and to find ways of strengthening and improving collaboration with a view to achieving more impact at the farm level through rapid dissemination and adoption of research innovations.

NARES partners recognized the contribution and support of IITA to the NARES systems over the years in terms of capacity building, development of scientific innovations, and improvement of rural livelihoods in Africa. However, they observed that this support declined at a point as a result of dwindling funds from CGIAR. To address these issues and foster stronger partnerships in the future, the NARES partners proposed recommendations that both IITA and they would work on to foster better relations.

They proposed that a meeting of an enlarged group of NARES DGs be held next year.

The meeting which was initiated by the Partnerships and Capacity Development Directorate under the leadership of Dr Kenton Dashiell had a mix of facilitation and short presentations, offering participants a conducive atmosphere to freely air their concerns and voice their opinions. Dr Alfred Dixon gave the opening remarks and a presentation on the objectives of the meeting. Mr Zoumana Bamba chaired the first session while Dr Victor Manyong chaired the second session.  Mrs Hilde Koper gave a short presentation on Intellectual Property while Godwin Atser moderated the session.5

IITA partners with the WJSeries to promote agriculture

IITA and the Winihin Jemide Series are partnering through a Garden Show exhibition on the theme ”Waste to wonderful” in celebration of Nigeria at 100, to promote environmental beautification, healthy living, and agriculture.

The 3-day exhibition which was held at the Oriental   Hotel in Lagos from 30 May to 1 June showcased an overwhelming yet spectacular display of flowers and the benefits that agriculture offers.  The CEO of the WJSeries Mrs Winihin Jemide, speaking at the opening was very delighted and welcomed all to the second edition of the series. She encouraged all to at least plant a tree and join forces to transform wasted areas in Nigeria to green areas.

”Planting is a rare way to share” she said. This year’s exhibitions featured contests in photography, essay writing, and flower displays.  Guests came from all around the world.4