His Excellency, Mr Michel Deelen, the Deputy Ambassador, Netherlands Embassy, Lagos, came on an orientation visit to IITA-Ibadan on 24 February. He was welcomed by Dr Ken Dashiell, Deputy Director General for Partnerships and Capacity Development, who gave an overview on IITA and its work on linking with the private sector to catalyze development through agribusiness and commercializing technologies through its Business Incubation Platform (BIP).
Hilde Koper, Head of the Project Administration Office, gave a rundown of past and current collaborative projects between the Dutch government and IITA that includes ongoing research in the CGIAR Research Programs on Integrated Systems for the Humid Tropics (Humidtropics) and Climate Change, Food Security and Agriculture (CCAFS) through the Wageningen University.
Explaining about his visit to IITA, Deputy Ambassador Deelen said that the Embassy is a “broker” between Nigeria and the Netherlands and that it is more concerned with trade and industry, and emphasizes connection to markets.
“Our main task in the Embassy is to make bridges between institutions in the Netherlands and the private sector in Nigeria,” he said. “The challenge is to find how we can bring technologies to markets for farmers or consumers to use. We need to link up research with industry.”
He said that there seemed to be a “disconnect between what technologies are available and how Nigerian farmers run their business.” Thus, he said he was happy to hear that IITA had taken the bold step of commercializing technologies for farmers.
The Deputy Ambassador was taken on a tour of the Institute’s facilities that included the Pathology Lab, Genetic Resources Center, IITA Youth Agripreneurs, BIP with the aflasafe and Nodumax plants, and the Cassava Waste Conversion to High Protein Animal Feed project of ILRI. He was accompanied by Ms Sonia Odije, Adviser, Economic, Trade and Investment Affairs.
The Dutch envoy said he was very impressed with IITA’s work, especially on BIP and the youth initiatives, and he would certainly come back to IITA to explore further collaboration.
Testing policies against future socio-economic scenarios
By striking up collaboration with CCAFS Future Scenarios team, the PACCA project invited stakeholders to review the National Agriculture Policy and Mechanization Framework in Uganda as well as the new National Environment Policy in Tanzania, testing the policies against multiple, all highly potential scenarios for the two countries. The scenarios were used as a ‘crash test’ to make the policy frameworks more climate-sensitive and robust.
In mid-February participants came for two consecutive national workshops in Tanzania and Uganda. The stakeholders represented the Vice President’s Office, Prime Minister’s Office, and Ministry of Agriculture, of Livestock and Fisheries Development in Tanzania and in Uganda, the Ministry of Water and Environment and Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries.
The event also enabled the project to get feedback from the farmers on the technologies that they preferred and which they would readily adopt to enhance productivity of cassava in the region to improve food and nutritional security and contribute to poverty reduction.
The technologies demonstrated at the event, held on 27 February 2014 at Kakonko District, Kigoma Region, in Tanzania, included intercropping and the use of fertilizers and new improved varieties.
Dr Mboyi Mugendi, a Zonal Research Director at the Lake Zone Agricultural Research and Development Institute (LZARDI) hailed the technologies being piloted by the SARD-SC project saying they had the potential to increase production of cassava, one of the region’s key staple crops, and contribute to efforts to improve food security and reduce poverty in the region.
“The improved cassava farming technologies being piloted by the project have the potential to significantly boost cassava production in this region and at the same time conserve soil fertility. However, the farmers will also need further training in order to adopt the new technologies being piloted,” said Dr Mugendi.
He added: “There is need to create awareness among the farmers on the importance of testing their soils so they can know the deficient minerals and the best crops to grow and fertilizers to use. They also need support in the testing.”
Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD) and Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) were identified as major challenges threatening production of cassava in the region. Dr Simon Jeremiah from LZARDI briefed the farmers on the two diseases, their symptoms, and the measures to take to stop their spread.
He also urged farmers to invest in the production of clean seeds and to change to the improved cassava varieties which are tolerant to the two diseases that the project will recommend from its trials.
Mr Christopher Briton Chugwa, Chairman of a farmers group in Kibondo District, said the farmers’ day was important as it exposed farmers to new technologies that had potential to increase yields to motivate them to improve their farming practices.
Miss Veronica Laurence, a farmer from Kiobela Village, said the improved varieties and farming practices being demonstrated by the project had better yields compared to the local varieties and local practices. However she added lack of financial resources was a major barrier to many farmers in adopting the new technologies.
Thanking the project on behalf of the Kakonko District Commissioner, Mrs Tausi Madebo, the Division Officer, said that the technologies demonstrated a lot of potential to boost cassava production. She encouraged farmers to form associations and work as a group to tap into the existing market opportunities for the crop in the area.
Participants at the event included farmers from Kakonko, Kiobela, and Kasanda villages, government officials, and staff from LZARD and IITA.
The SARD-SC is a multinational project led by several CGIAR centers whose objective is to enhance food and nutrition security and contribute to reducing poverty in selected Regional Membership Countries (RMCs) in Africa. Funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB), it focuses on raising the productivity and profitability of cassava, maize, rice, and wheat.
It is being implemented in Benin Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, DR Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
The N2Africa project recently held a field day for smallholder farmers in Kwemashai Village, Lushoto District, Tanga Region, in Tanzania. The event allowed farmers to compare the different legume farming treatments being tested by the project.
The farmers evaluated how well the beans grew when applied either Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium (NPK) fertilizer, Monopotassium phosphate (PK) fertilizer or farm yard manure, when each of the fertilizers was mixed with the farmyard manure, and when no fertilizers whatsoever were used.
Overall, the farmers were impressed with the performance of beans grown using a mixture of organic and inorganic fertilizers and many said they were ready to invest in inorganic fertilizers to boost crop production. Currently, only a few farmers use fertilizers, and it’s usually small quantities of farmyard manure.
The one-day event held on 21 January 2015 and was attended by over 200 farmers drawn from surrounding villages and the project research team and partners including local government officials, local politicians, and agricultural extension officers.
One of the farmers, Fatuma Salim, said she was impressed with the combination of NPK and manure, and NPK alone. “The beans are growing very well and look very promising. In my farm, I only apply manure on beans but from these demonstrations I have seen the results of adding NPK fertilizers to the manure. I am excited to try using NPK or the combination of manure and NPK for better results. ”
Honesmo Temba from Chakechake village said the use of fertilizers combined with manure shows promise of increasing the yield of beans which in turn will motivate farmers to grow the crop more and earn more income.
“I came here to Kwemashai Village to learn from the demo plots about the types of fertilizer technologies farmers can effectively use to get high yields. This is important as it can provide an opportunity for farmers to generate income for the benefit of their families. These technologies show we can increase the production of beans and this will encourage farmers to grow more beans. The children will also be well fed and this will make them more attentive in class.”
He added, “Plants are like human beings. Human beings require better nutrients for growth, health, and thinking capacity, the same applies to beans.”
Speaking during the field day, Professor Ken Giller from Wagenigen University and the N2Africa project leader, noted that poor soils lacking important minerals such as nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous were a major constraint to farmers and one of the reasons behind the low yield in their fields.
He said he was pleased with the enthusiasm and interest shown by the farmers on the technologies being demonstrated. “Though the N2Africa project has been working in Tanzania for only one and half years, it already looks promising just by the farmers’ interest in these technologies. We hope that they will now invest and start applying some of them,” he said.
Tackling market issues Dr Frederick Baijukya, an Agronomist with IITA and the Country Coordinator for N2Africa in Tanzania, assured the farmers that the project will work hand-in-hand with them and the authorities to address the challenges they were facing in bean farming including lack of markets. He further urged them to form associations to help in marketing their crops. He said the project’s next step will be to ensure that farmers have access to the promising technologies that they have selected.
The village chairman Mr Yauto Abdish Mahongi, thanked the project for helping farmers to increase the production of beans. “Most bean farmers do not apply fertilizers. This project is helping raise awareness among farmers through these demonstrations that are giving farmers the opportunity to see for themselves how fertilizers can improve their yield. Therefore on behalf of Kwemashai village, I would like to thank the project for supporting us. We are happy to be among the selected beneficiaries and we promise to support it all the way.”
The N2Africa project, led by Wageningen University and implemented by the International Institute of Tropical Agricultural (IITA) and many other partners, encourages farmers to grow legumes for food and nutrition security, to increase their incomes as well as to improve soil health through nitrogen fixation. N2Africa promotes improved technologies to smallholder legume farmers that include the use of improved seeds, appropriate fertilizers, inoculants, and good agronomic practices to increase yield.