SARD-SC maize project introduces problem-solving agronomic options in Ghana

In view of the low productivity of maize in Ghana, the SARD-SC maize project in April, adopted the Participatory Research and Extension Approach (PREA) on innovation platforms to foster interaction among stakeholders and problem diagnosis and in accelerating the adoption of technologies.

Participants during the community analysis in Ashanti.
Participants during the community analysis in Ashanti.

This approach has enabled the project to successfully obtain gender-disaggregated field data from 745 farmers (423 males and 322 females) from 18 communities in Ghana across three innovation platforms constituting the project area. It employed a series of workshops, field work, and community analysis strategies in identifying farmers’ production constraints, opportunities, and solutions towards improving maize productivity.

By this, the project has identified an array of possibilities capable of surmounting the constraints and counteracting the vulnerabilities being experienced by maize farmers in the production, processing, and marketing of harvests.

As a measure of remedying the situation, the SARD-SC maize project has developed community action plans to cater to policy advocacy, technology validation, and capacity building of affected farmers. Other agronomic interventions deployed to validate and disseminate improved options include the following:

• Strategic mother trials to validate improved agronomic options that address declining soil fertility, erratic rainfall, and Striga infestation in the project area;

• Demonstration of mini-kit seed drops to disseminate multiple stress tolerant/resistant maize varieties for quick adoption;

• On-farm demonstration of improved maize varieties and complementary agronomic practices; and

• Community seed production schemes to amplify the availability of improved seeds at the community level.

IITA Forest Project featured in Herbalgram

Prickly pods of the ayo plant, Caesalpinia bonduc, in IITA forest.
Prickly pods of the ayo plant, Caesalpinia bonduc, in IITA forest.

The IITA Forest Reserve covers over 300 ha of the Ibadan campus, and is a center of biodiversity, representing a great variety of flora and fauna which are typical of the West African rainforests. Many of the trees and other plants have medicinal uses, and one of these was prominently featured in the August – October 2014 edition of Herbalgram, the Journal of the American Botanical Council.

Deni Bown, IITA Forest Project Manager, wrote an article for Herbalgram about Caesalpinia bonduc, Fabaceae. She described how the plant, with its prickly pods, is widely used for medicinal, leisure, and decorative purposes across West Africa.

“In southwestern Nigeria, the plant is known as ayo and the seeds are popular as beads and counters in games such as ayo alopon—which gets its name from this plant. Currently the most popular medicinal parts are the seeds which are ground and mixed with honey as a tonic and cure-all.

Compounds in the seeds of the plant have also been reported to be effective with antibacterial, antidiarrheal, and antioxidant properties whereas extracts from the roots and foliage have shown anti-inflammatory and anticancer effects.”

Ayo grows in the new garden for medicinal plants and also in the IITA Forest Reserve,” Deni Bown wrote.

IITA’s Youth Agripreneurs convene a 3-week intensive training for the youth in Borno State

The IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA) have convened a 3-week intensive agricultural training for selected young people from Borno State. Areas of focus cover on-field sessions on fish farming and production, processing and marketing of maize, cowpea, soybean, millet, groundnut, and sorghum. The training is another in a series of youth empowerment campaigns in Nigeria that the IYA have organized since their inception in 2012. It also endorses the replication of the IITA youth in agribusiness model in Borno.

IITA agripreneurs (Lemon T-Shirt) and Borno youths (Blue T-Shirt) in a group photo during the training.
IITA agripreneurs (Lemon T-Shirt) and Borno youths (Blue T-Shirt) in a group photo during the training.

At the opening session, 3 September, Molayo Owoeye, leading the team of Agripreneur-facilitators from IITA Headquarters in Ibadan, stated “This training will harness the potential of Borno youth to create their own employment, identify the strengths of trainees, and proffer the knowledge and skills required to generate wealth successfully from agriculture.” She added, “The training in particular is about developing entrepreneurial skills in agriculture, helping young people to identify and make use of their innate potentials, strengthen weaknesses, exploit opportunities, and eliminate threats in terms of doing business in agriculture.”

Entrepreneurship in agriculture has become a critical pathway in many African countries for creating employment and simultaneously driving productivity and economic growth. National programs invest in young people with multidisciplinary backgrounds to catalyze economic development while at the same time reducing unemployment and creating income through agribusiness. To support this drive, IYA are motivated to share their experiences with other groups of young people and encourage them to embrace farming as a business and improve their quality of life while contributing meaningfully to sustainable development.

Dr Emmanuel Sangodele is the Nigeria Project Coordinator of the N2Africa program–a large-scale, science research project focused on putting nitrogen fixation to work for smallholder farmers growing legume crops in Africa. He praised IITA for its concerted efforts in ensuring that youth unemployment is erased in Africa, and said, “The youth initiative and training is extremely insightful and is coming at a time when young people in Borno need financial and occupational stability. N2Africa is strongly committed to collaborate with IYA in launching agribusiness-based solutions to eradicate youth unemployment in Borno.”

Experts in agriculture acted as resource persons for the training. These included Dr Alpha Kamara, Head of the IITA Kano Station, Alhaji Sani Aliu Meedugu, Permanent Secretary/Project Manager, ADP Borno, and Prof Alphonse Emechebe, IITA Plant Pathologist and Independent Plant Management Specialist.

The training was organized in collaboration with N2Africa-to-Borno project under the auspices of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

R4D platform members in DRC, Rwanda, and Burundi meet to prepare for the coming crop season

Dr Marie Yomeni Octavie, IITA Cassava Commodity Specialist (second from left) with members of the platforms planning the activities and subactivities on nutrition.
Dr Marie Yomeni Octavie, IITA Cassava Commodity Specialist (second from left) with members of the platforms planning the activities and subactivities on nutrition.

Between 29 July and 4 August, members of the R4D platforms in DRC, Rwanda, and Burundi action sites organized planning meetings to determine the R4D activities they will implement in the coming crop season.

The key objective of the meetings was to finalize actions and partnership commitments for the implementation of Phase III of the Consortium for Improving Agriculture-based Livelihoods in Central Africa (CIALCA) under Humidtropics. The meetings were attended by members of the platforms as well as representatives of the Humidtropics Coordination Office, IITA, and Bioversity who assisted in moderating the sessions.

Participants discussed and identified best-fit options for integrated systems research addressing productivity, natural resource management, nutrition, market, and institutional issues. A convener was identified for each research theme to coordinate the development of the research protocols. In DRC, the planning meeting was held on 29 July and facilitated by Sylvain Mapatano, the Action Site Facilitator.

The research themes identified and prioritized by the platform were crop-livestock integration; improving access to market for beans, soybean, and cassava; improving banana-based system; enhancing dietary diversity; developing postharvest activities of preferred crops; and improving access to credit. The research themes will be implemented in the Mushinga field site.

In Rwanda, the meeting which was facilitated by Dr Leon Nabahungu, Action Site Facilitator, identified and prioritized the following themes:  scaling out nutritious banana and legume varieties, legume-banana-livestock and agroforestry integration, maize-soybean associations, and cassava-legume systems that will be implemented in Kadahenda field site.

The Burundi planning meeting, facilitated by Cyrille Hicintuka, Action Site Facilitator, also identified five themes: cassava-bush beans association, rotation of Irish potato and bush beans, association of maize-soybean in rotation with climbing beans, banana-soybean association, and rice-legume rotation that will be implemented in Gitega field sites. Follow-up meetings at the field sites with the innovation platforms were scheduled for each site.


DG visits Burundi and meets with partners


DG Sanginga (left) is welcomed by the Hon Rufyikiri Gervais, Burundi second Vice President.
DG Sanginga (left) is welcomed by the Hon Rufyikiri Gervais, Burundi second Vice President.

Dr Nteranya Sanginga, IITA’s Director General, was in Burundi for a 3-day visit, 18-20 August, to strengthen collaboration with the Burundi Government and also to meet partners in the Institut des Science Agronomiques du Burundi (ISABU), Ministre de l’Agriculture et de l’Elevage (MINAGRIE), and Agrobiotec Tissue Culture Laboratory. He also visited the Hon. Rufyikiri Gervais, Burundi’s Second Vice President, and the Hon. Odette Kayitesi, Minister for Agriculture.

The visit also provided an opportunity for sharing updates on research for development with the IITA-Burundi staff and discussing management and welfare issues.

While receiving DG Sanginga,  Ir Dieudonné Nahimana, ISABU Director General, acknowledged the impacts of IITA’s presence and activities in Burundi.  “IITA’s activities align with Burundi’s agricultural strategy and development plans… this is very important for Burundi where more than 80% of the population is involved in agriculture and the economy depends entirely on agriculture for domestic growth,” he said.

He highlighted some IITA-implemented projects which had benefited the people of Burundi. These included the Consortium for Improving Agriculture-based Livelihoods in Central Africa (CIALCA), Humidtropics program towards sustainable agricultural intensification, training of ISABU researchers, regeneration of genetic materials of cassava and banana, upgrading of ISABU laboratories with standard equipment and materials, biological control of aflatoxins on grain crops, and pest risk management for major food crops (cassava, banana, potato) in collaboration with other CGIAR centers.

At the Agrobiotec tissue culture lab—one of the largest private banana tissue culture labs in Africa, with the capacity to produce more than 5 million plants annually—Dr Sanginga saw that the partnership promoting the concept of tissue culture mother gardens had increased the demand for plantlets and bridged the gap between the farmers and private suppliers. This ensures the distribution of stronger healthy plantlets and true-to-type varieties by disseminating healthy banana planting material from properly managed plots, thereby preventing the spread of pests and diseases and unknown varieties.

DG Sanginga thanked the Burundi Government and said he was impressed by its support to IITA and its activities. “The Government has provided an enabling environment to foster agricultural research and strong partnership with NARS, NGOs, and the private sector. Infrastructure is also available to host CGIAR centers for economic, productive, and sustainable development,” he said.

He urged the Government to continue to advocate for more research centers and projects and to also partner with IITA to reduce youth unemployment through the involvement of young people in agribusiness.