N2Africa receives World Bank award

N2Africa has received a prestigious prize through the Harvesting Nutrition Contest, sponsored by the World Bank, which aimed at rewarding agricultural projects around the world  that have bridged the gaps between nutrition, agriculture and food security. N2Africa was picked among 50 highly-acclaimed projects from around the world, all showcasing efforts to improve the impact of interventions in agriculture and food security on nutritional outcomes.

The contest was organized by the Secure Nutrition Knowledge Platform in partnership with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and Save the Children.

N2Africa emerged winner alongside two other projects. It was chosen because of its positive impact on the nutrition of its beneficiaries, novelty in its approach to linking agriculture and nutrition, demonstration of an application of old approaches employed in an innovative way, and potential feasibility on a broad-scale basis.

In addition to getting the US$ 5000 prize money, N2Africa will also be documented in a multimedia portrait which will be made available for viewing on the Secure Nutrition website.

The N2Africa project focuses on maximizing benefits for smallholder farmers growing legumes, such as groundnut, cowpea and common bean – generally regarded as women’s crops in Africa – through nitrogen fixation. This is a process that gives soil bacteria the ability to convert atmospheric nitrogen into plant-usable forms. IITA and Wageningen University are taking the lead in this project that is being implemented with funds from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Howard G. Buffet Foundation.


Research article on Yam Aeroponics Technology published in SDI Journal

On 12 July 2014, an aeroponics research article entitled “Yam Propagation Using Aeroponics Technology”, written by researchers working under the YIIFSWA project, was published in Sciencedomain International’s (SDI) Annual Research and Review in the Biology Journal. The article was described as an important contribution towards achieving the YIIFSWA goal of “delivering key global good research products that will contribute to the longer term vision of improving yam productivity and livelihoods of yam-dependent farmers.”

The article chronicles the development of the novel technique and research findings generated during the project’s preliminary research. You can read the article at http://www.sciencedomain.org or visit YIIFSWA’s webpage at http://www.iita.org/web/yiifswa/home

The new look of the IITA Root and Tuber Improvement Team Center

The  popular  yam  barn  offices  in the IITA-Ibadan campus have been refurbished, giving  them  the look, ambience and name expected of a building where  good science grows. The new facility will now be known as the “IITA Root and Tuber Improvement Team Center”.

The office building is shared by scientists and researchers involved in all of IITA’s yam and cassava research. It accommodates close to 50 of the 100-plus members of IITA’s workforce comprising yam and cassava breeding staff, students, and technicians.

Describing the degeneration of the old yam barn offices before the decision was taken by management to refurbish them, Dr Elizabeth Parkes, HarvestPlus Cassava breeder, said, “The way the place looked before the renovation did not befit the kind of work we do.”

The Center now has tastefully furnished offices for scientists and students, a laboratory, meeting room, 44 standard workstations, 55 lockers, and a lobby for guests. The entire building is fully air- conditioned and also equipped with CCTV cameras, internet facilities, and fire safety devices.DSC_0229 (Copy)

Members of the Yam and Cassava breeding team during the commissioning of the new center
Members of the Yam and Cassava breeding team during the commissioning of the new center

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The new Center was commissioned on 8 July. It was an occasion for people to know and appreciate the building and to also charge those handling the facilities there to take good care and maintain them.

During the commissioning, Dr Robert Asiedu delivered a goodwill message where he told the story of the yam barn which had been in existence for over 45 years and the great transformation achieved. Dr Alfred Dixon added his voice, expressing his delight in the real transformation of the facility. He supported Mrs Charlotte Sanginga, the wife of the DG Dr Nteranya Sanginga, in officially opening the building.

The beneficiaries for whom the building was reconstructed  expressed  gratitude to the DG and management for this gesture. They also recognized the vital leadership of Dr Peter Kulakow, IITA cassava breeder, and the role the Facilities Maintenance Service (FMS) team played in the completion of this project.

Dr Parkes said, “Recently, management thought of the cassava and yam team and decided to refurbish the old buildings and put them in really good shape. It is now indeed like a modern office with a modest laboratory. The new building and the modern facilities for staff, students, and technicians alike, send a crystal-clear message to all who work for hours on the field in the tropical sun that their hard work, commitment, and efforts in driving forward IITA’s R4D agenda are greatly appreciated.  We are still looking for an excellent name for this building to describe the teamwork of the yam and cassava breeding programs. All ideas are welcome.”

“There is no doubt that good science will take place here” Dr Parkes added.

IITA’s Genebank gets ready for cryogenic preservation

Bimpe with her Japenese host and friends
Bimpe with her Japenese host and friends

IITA’s Genetic Resources Center (GRC) sponsored a 3-week training course at the National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences (NIAS), Tsukuba, Japan, for Olubimpe Abiola Akinyemi, a research supervisor/ cryoBank officer. She was trained on the management of the cryogenic conservation of vegetatively propagated crops and learned about updates on the latest cryopreservation methods using cryo plate techniques (V- and D -Cryo plate procedures).

Cryopreservation refers to a process where plant cells, whole tissues, or organs are preserved by cooling to an ultra-low temperature (in liquid nitrogen at -196o C). It is a method used for the long-term storage of the international collections of clonally propagated crops (yam, cassava, banana, and plantain) held at IITA. This conservation system is complementary to those existing at IITA for clonal crops, i.e., field and in vitro (medium-term storage) banks.

In addition to being the most reliable technique  for  the long-term  storage of   plant genetic resources, cryopreservation avoids the disadvantages of tissue ageing and possible somaclonal variation caused by in vitro conservation. It is less time and labor consuming and may potentially eliminate fungal and bacterial contamination. Cryopreservation techniques have been increasingly used for the long-term storage (LTS) of plant biodiversity.

Dr Badara Gueye, IITA’s In vitro Propagation and Conservation Specialist, says this conservation system is carried out in such a way that the plant materials are stored for a very long period (up to many decades) without losing their ability to regenerate a whole plant. The different steps of the protocol prepare the cells against the harmful effects of the cooling process (the formation of ice during freezing). The new cryo-plate protocol developed by the NIAS genebank  is fascinating and  has been praised by cryopreservation communities around the world as it allows the net improvement of cryogenic conservation. “As we are about to start cryobanking IITA’s clonal crop collection, the new system that  Olubimpe has learnt will nudge us in the right direction,” he said.

Dr Shin-Ichi Yamamoto was Olubimpe’s host in Japan. He is Gene Bank Principal Researcher in NIAS—one of the reference laboratories in plant cryopreservation and the home of vitrification methods, the world’s most used cryopreservation technique.

Olubimpe said she was excited about the training. “The decision to send me to this training has demonstrated in more ways than one that it is important to plan a journey before embarking on it. With the novel Japanese cryopreservation techniques that I have learnt, we have commenced some experimental work. This will guide us on how best to improve IITA’s cryopreservation methods and techniques.”

Olubimpe’s study with the NIAS has also paved  the way for  future collaboration with the Japanese genebank on cryopreservation. “Dr Yamamoto is showing great interest in visiting IITA for further partnership. We are working together to elaborate research programs that we hope will result in a good future and fruitful collaboration,” said Dr Gueye. This new asset in the conservation strategy of important international collections will confirm the leading role played by IITA’s GRC in safeguarding the diversity of staple crops for food security, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

Smallholder groups in Sierra Leone get eleven new cassava processing factories

IITA with funds from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has constructed and equipped eleven cassava processing factories for smallholder groups. This is part of efforts to support the Smallholders’ Commercialization Program (SCP) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS) in the Eastern, Southern and Northern provinces of Sierra Leone. IITA has also supported these smallholder groups and farmers in their immediate2

Women participating in the sensory evaluation survey of the new cassava products
Women participating in the sensory evaluation survey of the new cassava products

to establish cassava farms of improved varieties to feed the factories.

Dr Braima James, IITA Representative in Sierra Leone, also said that the SARD-SC cassava project has plans to establish four more factories with support from the African Development Bank. Two will be in Tonkololi district, one in Bo district, and another in Kono district.

In addition to the various products already widespread in Sierra Leone, the new factories  will process the improved varieties into four new value-added products that IITA is promoting—odorless fufu flour, attieke/cassava couscous, tapioca pap, and cassava ice cream.

To ensure that there is a viable market for these new products being promoted, a consumer acceptance and sensory evaluation survey was led by Dr Bussie Maziya-Dixon, Head of IITA’s Crop Utilization Unit. The survey showed that the new products were “good to go”. This survey was undertaken to capture consumers’ perceptions and acceptance of the new products and possible recommendations for their improvement. Ibironke Popoola, Research Associate, Crop Utilization Unit, said the exercise also provided marketing information for small- and medium-scale industries wishing to commercialize the new products.

Other partners working to ensure the sustainability of this project include the Sierra Leone MAFFS, Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute (SLARI), World Vision International, Future in Our Hands, and World Hope International.

AgResults AflasafeTM team trains partners

Participants at the AgResults meeting in Ibadan
Participants at the AgResults meeting in Ibadan

The AgResults AflasafeTM team has successfully completed a 2-day training in Ibadan for its implementers. Welcoming participants, the AgResults Pilot Manager, Debo Akande, reiterated the project’s commitment to supporting and providing solutions to farmers for improving safety and increasing productivity of maize.

He described the training as a unique model to advance the biocontrol of aflatoxin to Nigerian farmers through the involvement of market players, the private sector, and other key stakeholders in maize value chain to ensure sustainability of aflasafeTM adoption.

The AgResults project seeks to promote the adoption of aflasafeTM – a biocontrol technology with a proven efficacy to reduce aflatoxin contamination in grains by as much as 90% – among smallholder maize farmers in Nigeria. The project currently works with 11 implementers from various small and micro-enterprises to disseminate the technology.

The focus of the training was to inform implementers of the project objectives and mode of operation, demonstrate method of aflasafeTM application, use of other aflatoxin management practices, maize agronomy, and business development opportunities with low-aflatoxin maize.

Mr Akande said that since over 70% of food in Nigeria was currently produced by smallholder farmers, implementers were expected to pass on this information and demonstrate it to 5,000 farming families in 2014. This would change them from subsistence farmers to becoming farmers inclined to agribusiness. He said, “We expect that 110 t of aflasafeTM will be applied on 11,000 ha of maize fields in 2014. AgResults will also provide incentives for this group of farmers to facilitate adoption of this biocontrol technology.’’

Dr Joseph Atehnkeng, Coordinator for Aflatoxin Control in West Africa; Dr Silvestro Meseka, IITA Maize Breeder; and Lawrence Kaptoge, Process Engineer AflasafeTM Manufacturing Plant, were among the key stakeholders that made presentations during the training.  They stressed the importance of good management practices while stating that bad sanitation, poor management, and improper storage were linked to high levels of aflatoxin contamination.

The AgResults project is a multilateral initiative (G-20) managed by Deloitte Monitor. The Initiative receives support from the Governments of Australia, Canada, the UK, and USA, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It aims to use results-based cash incentives – in the form of “pull mechanisms,” – to spur the adoption of innovation and technology to promote agricultural development and food security.