Enhancing soybean production in Nigeria through the SARD-SC maize system

The IITA/SARD-SC maize system soybean production enhancement planning workshop was held 1-4 February in Abuja to promote soybean cultivation and utilization in Nigeria. The workshop became imperative because of the huge deficit in the annual demand for the crop. Demand is currently estimated at 2.2 million tons; the annual production of 600,000 tons is grossly inadequate to meet this demand hence the need for a concerted effort to bridge the gap.

Chrys Akem reiterates the importance of promoting soybean at the workshop.
Chrys Akem reiterates the importance of
promoting soybean at the workshop.

The project is expected to mobilize the strength and expertise of stakeholders in the maize–soybean value chain to support production of soybean, a complementary crop to the maize commodity value chain in the SARD-SC project.

In his opening remarks, Chrys Akem, SARD-SC Project Coordinator, reiterated the importance of soybean and bemoaned the current low cultivation of the legume in the country.

“This workshop is an opportunity for us to walk our way back to the days when we had a surplus and strengthen soybean cultivation as a companion crop to maize.” Akem enumerated the many advantages of soybean as a food and nutritional security crop in Africa and the many existing high yielding varieties with good resistance to rust. He mentioned the opportunity for market linkages through the innovation platforms while challenging the soybean growers and poultry feed millers to maintain the sustainability of the soybean industry.

Sam Ajala, Maize Commodity Specialist, emphasized how the workshop participants could help map out a focused and clear goal for the crop in the next five years, and introduce business-led models to market soybean.

In his paper, titled Enhancing Soybean Production within the SARD-SC Maize Project in Nigeria, Kolawole Ojo, SARD-SC Soybean Scientist, stated the economic importance of the crop and the complementarity of maize-soybean production. “Soybean improves soil fertility through atmospheric nitrogen fixation. Processed soybeans are the world’s largest source of animal feed and the second largest source of vegetable oil,” he said.

Ojo said that the SARD-SC project will help generate improved maize and soybean production/utilization technologies; ensure dissemination/promotion of improved technologies; enhance food and nutrition security; and contribute to poverty reduction in Africa. Ojo emphasized the importance of partnership with national and international scientists, seed companies, processors, farmers, NGOs, and extension workers as part of the operational strategy to achieve these projections. Some of the steps to enhance soybean production include capacity building of the value chain actors, and generation and promotion of preferred maize/soybean varieties that could be adapted to various agroecologies and that are tolerant to major biotic and abiotic stresses.

Soybean scientists from research institutes, soybean farmers, poultry farmers, representatives of seed companies, and other interested stakeholders attended the workshop and brainstormed on the strategies to enhance soybean cultivation. They also deliberated on the way forward for soybean production enhancement.

Tanzania farmers save on labor and cut food losses

For 56-year old Yohana Isaya, a farmer from Ndurungumi village in Kongwa District, central Tanzania, maize farming was always a losing game: a stressful, but extremely important subsistence venture. He has to do something or how else would he feed his family?

To begin with, shelling the maize harvest from his 5-acre plot was a back-breaking job which he, together with his wife and their five children couldn’t do on their own. They needed the help of at least eight extra pairs of hands to finish the job in three days. Isaya would then use the traditional “Kilindo”, a small cylindrical traditional bin made from peeled miombo tree barks, to store his maize to be used sparingly for feeding his family.   Most of the time, nearly half the stored maize would be moldy and inedible.

Farmers at Ndurungumi use PICS bag for maize storage.
Farmers at Ndurungumi use PICS bag for
maize storage.

What he didn’t know then was that there was a better way. There were new and efficient postharvest technologies developed by IITA’s AfricaRISING Project that could change the zero sum game that maize farming and storage had become to a winning one.

“Before joining the Africa RISING-NAFAKA-TUBORESHE CHAKULA scaling project activities and training, I was using a raised wood platform for shelling maize. Usually it took me up to three days to shell 700 kilograms. We sometimes had to ask for help from our neighbors whom we’d have to compensate by providing food, local brew, and sometimes cash. But, after the project trained us on using simple and affordable machines like the motorized maize sheller, the same kind of work now takes only 30 minutes,” explained Yohana.

But it is not only the maize shelling machines that the farmers have been introduced to. The postharvest training have also focused on a complete package of technologies including collapsible drier cases capable of drying 400 kg maize in five hours in the sun, and storage using hermetic bags. As a result, farmers have been able to reduce the
amount of time spent on crop processing, reduced food losses, and improved food security in their households.

The Africa RISING-NAFAKA-TUBORESHE CHAKULA scaling project aims to scale the use of postharvest technologies among 47,000 Tanzanian smallholder farmers.

Farmers shelling maize at Yohana Isaya’s farm during the postharvest training organized by the Africa RISING–NAFAKA scaling project in Ndurugumi village.
Farmers shelling maize at Yohana Isaya’s farm during the postharvest training organized by the Africa RISING–NAFAKA scaling project in Ndurugumi village.

Recent studies in the semi-arid areas of northern and central Tanzania have shown that 20−40% of grains and legumes are usually lost during harvesting; a further 5% is lost during shelling−even when the amount of grains shelled per day was very small due to drudgery and the lack of improved shelling technologies; a further 15−25% is lost during storage.

Practices like drying crops on the bare floor also often lead to contamination and storage when the moisture content is high leading to deterioration. These challenges are what drove the project to introduce postharvest technologies to the Tanzanian farmers.

SARD-SC organizes workshop in Cameroon on using IP approach to increase income for maize farmers

Support to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops (SARD-SC), one of IITA’s projects working to improve productivity and income from growing maize, rice, cassava, and wheat, has partnered with the Institute of Agricultural Research for Development (IRAD) and organized a two-day workshop in Cameroon. The workshop aimed at laying a solid ground for the implementation of maize as a commodity using the Value Chain Innovation Platform (IP) approach with the potential of increasing the income of smallholder farmers in Cameroon.

IRAD and IITA scientists were in attendance together with members of staff from the Agricultural Investment and Markets Development (PIDEM) Project, The World Vegetable Center (AVRDC), Humidtropics national staff in Cameroon, and farmers from different parts of Cameroon.

The two-day workshop, held 19-20 March, was initiated by Dr Sam Ajala, Coordinator of maize commodity under SARD-SC and supported by Dr Chrysantus Akem, SARD-SC.

Cameroon is one of the Central African states where maize is regarded as an important staple food and a cash crop for the vast majority of the population. In 2013, a collaborative research
project to introduce improved maize varieties in Cameroon through IRAD was initiated by Dr Abebe Menkir, IITA’s Maize Improvement Program Coordinator, with assistance from Dr Silvestro Meseka, under the CGIAR Research Program on Maize (MAIZE). MAIZE has opened a window of opportunity for IITA not only to introduce new varieties/hybrids into the five agroecologies of Cameroon, but has also provided a platform for IITA and IRAD scientists to interact in many ways.

Other topics discussed during the workshop were the past and present state of maize improvement in Cameroon; experiences of IITA’s implementation of regional maize projects in West and Central Africa since 1987 to date; highlights of the SARD-SC project using the IP of the commodity value chain approach; opportunities for IRAD’s maize improvement program to collaborate; possible strategies towards addressing the gaps and challenges to maize improvement in Cameroon, and the way forward. Two PhD students, future maize breeders in Cameroon, also presented their work. They are the next hope for Cameroon in maize breeding.

Dr Rachid Hanna, IITA-Cameroon Country Representative, also led the SARD-SC team in Cameroon to meet Dr Joseph Bedima, Director General of IRAD. Their meeting discussed partnerships and collaborative research work and networking between IITA and IRAD.

Maize Improvement Workshop participants pose for a group photo.
Maize Improvement Workshop participants pose for a group photo.

Impacts from DTMA implementation to be multiplied in a new project

The Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) project has completely lived through its implementation phases and is on course to be replaced by a new project known as Stress Tolerant Maize for Africa (STMA). From 2016 onwards, DTMA will have a new shape and form. Although this is still in the proposal stage, STMA is set to replicate the successes achieved in DTMA across sub-Saharan Africa and to also deploy novel technologies that will better create desired impacts.

Dr Tsedeke Abate sheds light on the progress of the DTMA project and projected expectations for STMA.
Dr Tsedeke Abate sheds light on the progress of the DTMA project and projected expectations for STMA.

On 20-21 April at the Conference Center in Ibadan, Nigeria, stakeholders involved in the implementation of DTMA from 2007 to 2013 convened to review progress in the last 8-9 years of implementation, discuss outputs, outcomes, sustainability models, and the next steps for the future.

Dr Ylva Hillbur, DDG Research for Development, welcomed the DTMA team to the work plan meeting, stressing that the importance of their work in sub-Saharan Africa could not be overestimated. She hailed the project, describing it as proactive.

“In particular,” she said, “the extra-early maize variety which bears appealing morphological, aesthetic, and yield characteristics always sells the story of success from the DTMA project… DTMA has strong partnerships and networks that make the difference between projects with long-lasting impacts. DTMA has proven that more than developing new varieties, it is important to integrate farmers within the system and encourage them to grow those varieties.”

Dr Tsedeke Abate, DTMA project leader, recounts that the DTMA project has done a tremendous job in breeding new maize varieties that can replace old varieties, give high yield, and possess other desirable agronomic traits such as drought tolerance, resistance to Maize Streak Virus and to Striga.

“…The result across sub-Saharan Africa for farmers growing DTMA varieties is very encouraging,” he said. Apart from developing more than 200 hybrid and open-pollinated varieties (OPVs) of maize, more than 50% of plots planted to maize in 2013 in Nigeria are also DTMA varieties.

“In the beginning, we set out to develop more than 200 hybrids and OPVs
and deliver 60,000 t of maize seeds,” he said. “So far, we can proudly say that
we have been successful in developing the varieties we said we would, and
we are still on track to meet our target in the area of delivering certified DTMA seeds.”

Dr Tsedeke also called on partners to intensify efforts in the distribution of the varieties already released to ensure that farmers get unlimited access to new and better varieties.

“To facilitate this, DTMA will continue among others to encourage national programs in target countries to promote DTMA materials across Africa and empower partners to scale out materials developed by the project,” he added.

More about STMA

For lasting and sustainable impacts on the ground, STMA will be implemented by IITA and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) under two key components. The first is Improved Maize for African Soils (IMAS) – aimed to find maize varieties having high nitrogen use efficiency and addressing the issues of abiotic stresses of the crop. The second component is the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa Seed Scaling (DTMAS) – aimed to scale up the seed varieties so far released under DTMA.

“The general idea for the new project is to ensure that the new maize varieties already developed will be widely used,” explained Dr Tsedeke.

DTMAS is now being piloted in seven countries in Southern and Eastern Africa; Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia. It is also very likely that DTMAS will be piloted in critical countries in West Africa as well.

On why the project has a good potential to succeed, Dr Tsedeke explained, “STMA is more on the supply side of research and technologies which is a major constraint for agriculture today. DTMAS, on the other hand, is essentially about taking out the technologies and working with farmers.”

“We are promoting a new generation of maize varieties to keep pace with and address climate changes and meet the future needs of maize farmers and agriculture,” Dr Tsedeke added.

Specifically, the broad areas for focus in implementing STMA are storage/postharvest practices for maize, breeding, and scaling up of released maize varieties.

The new challenge will be to eradicate the new disease — Maize Lethal Necrosis — a really big threat for African agriculture which is now widely spread in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and Southern Sudan.

To achieve this, STMA will work with several universities and institutions in Africa, Germany, and North America, and deploy double haploid technology to eradicate the disease from farmers’ fields.

Stakeholders come together in Burkina Faso to look at biocontrol solution for aflatoxin

IITA with partners United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Institute for Agricultural and Environmental Research in Burkina Faso (INERA) is convening a stakeholders’ conference aimed at increasing awareness of the hazards of aflatoxins, understanding the peculiarities of aflatoxin contamination in local farming areas, and promoting biocontrol mechanisms for stemming its spread in susceptible crops throughout Africa.

Key stakeholders representing various partner institutions during the opening program.
Key stakeholders representing various partner institutions during the opening program.

The stakeholders’ meeting is taking place 23–24 April at the Splendid Hotel, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Participants include producers, scientists, and private-public sector partners working directly with the aflasafe project in reaching farmers in the region and seed companies, CNRST, USDA-FAS, Nestle, and partner universities.

Aflatoxins are naturally occurring poisons produced by fungi known as Aspergillus flavus and others which contaminate the soil and crops (especially maize and groundnut). This contamination has debilitating effects on human health, lowers production of livestock and agriculture, and severely restricts trade opportunities for most farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. Specific interventions in the form of biocontrol mechanisms can, however, be employed in controlling and preventing aflatoxin contamination. This approach significantly improves the security and quality of agricultural produce and increases trade opportunities for stakeholders all along the value chain.

Dr Ranajit Bandyopadhyay, IITA Pathologist (middle row, with laptop), gives an update on the aflasafe project, the factory in IITA Ibadan that produces the biocontrol product, and the market models being used in Nigeria, Kenya, and Senegal to promote access to aflasafe.
Dr Ranajit Bandyopadhyay, IITA Pathologist (middle row, with laptop), gives an update on the aflasafe project, the factory in IITA Ibadan that produces the biocontrol product, and the market models being used in Nigeria, Kenya, and Senegal to promote access to aflasafe.

IITA has adapted a biocontrol approach for Africa that changes the composition of fungal communities by letting local strains of nontoxic A. flavus (atoxigenic strains) become established in the crop environment in place of strains that produce large amounts of aflatoxin. A biocontrol product, called aflasafe BF01, for Burkina Faso was developed by
IITA and partners to reduce the rate of contamination in crops and subsequent risks.

aflasafe BF01 is a natural, simple, safe, and cost-effective product that uses native nontoxic strains to replace aflatoxin-producing fungi. Similar products are being developed or used in more than 10 other African countries. Trials of BF01 have shown a remarkable reduction in aflatoxin contamination in maize (85%) and groundnut (94%). These results have encouraged IITA and its partners to explore the opportunities for escalating the adoption of aflasafe as an effective tool in preventing the spread of aflatoxins in Burkina Faso in particular and sub-Saharan Africa in general. This can be achieved by educating stakeholders about the dangers of aflatoxins and the efficacy of aflasafe.

WAAPP-Nigeria commends IITA on the inclusion of AIP to meet partnership goals

Professor Damian Chikwendu, WAAPP-Nigeria National Coordinator, has commended IITA for prominently featuring the dynamic Agricultural Innovation Platform (AIP), also known as the Cassava Platform, in channelling technologies to farmers and investors. He described the initiative as “more effective than other conventional systems.”

Prof Chikwendu also observed that, to a very large extent, the AIP which is based in Umuahia, Abia State, had been performing very well in the cassava value chain and had now been extended to eight other States in Nigeria. “The World Bank is very impressed by this extension outfit and I urge IITA to request additional funds as may be needed to foster an all-encompassing development for farmers.”

WAAPP-Nigeria has been engaging IITA since 2012 as a major partner in the implementation of regional projects on cassava, yam, and maize. When Dr Gbassey Tarawali, IITA’s Representative in Abuja, and Dr Beatrice Aighewi, IITA Yam Seed Systems Specialist, made a recent visit to the WAAPP Office in Abuja, Prof Chikwendu showed interest in continuing the ongoing projects and also in exploring new areas. To facilitate this, an interactive session between both organizations was held on 2 March where IITA scientists shared new ideas and made presentations on the final reports for the ongoing projects and proposals for a second phase.

New areas to be explored in the proposed second phase include an oil initiative, the involvement of the youth in agribusiness, and the use of aflasafe to combat aflatoxin contamination on maize fields. As a first step, Dr Kenton Dashiell, DDG-Partnerships and Capacity Development, has urged IITA scientists to prepare at least six proposals to this effect. He also enjoined the scientists to work with Dr Robert Asiedu, Director R4D, and Kristina Roing de Nowina, Proposal Development Coordinator, in carrying out this assignment.

Video: Story of IITA Agripreneurs in Tanzania

Last year, 2014, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) launched an agricultural youth program in Tanzania to contribute to efforts to tackle youth unemployment while, at the same time, using young people to modernize agriculture.

The program is part of an institute wide youth program known as IITA Agripreneurs started at its Headquarters in Ibadan Nigeria three years ago under the leadership of IITA Director General, Nteranya Sanginga. It has since spread to other countries where IITA is working including Kenya, Uganda, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

In Tanzania, the program dubbed ‘IITA Tanzania Youth Agripreneurs’ (IYA) brings together graduates of different disciplines keen on pursuing agriculture as a business.  The group has received training on modern farming methods and processing and value addition.

The group is engaged in four activities: production and processing of cassava, maize and soybean, production of vegetables and offering weeding services.

According to Veronica Kabwe, the chairlady of the group, the program is a very good opportunity for the youth: “We are getting free trainings…. It is a big opportunity and we have to take it as youth. The knowledge is very useful not just for IITA but even at home. It’s a very beneficial program for youth and I advise them to take it very seriously,” she says.

Other links:

Tanzania: Youths Deserve Jobs to Sustain Their Daily Lives

Tanzania trains Agripreneurs for agriculture change



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.

DTMA trains field technicians and seed specialists

IITA, in collaboration with CIMMYT, has organized a one-week training course for field technicians, seed specialists of public institutions, and production managers of seed companies participating in the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) project. This is in recognition of the need for Africa to raise production to meet the world level of maize—a highly sought-after crop with industrial and local consumption benefits both for people and animals.

The training titled “Conduct and Management of Field Trials for Seed Production of Open-pollinated and Hybrid Seed” was held in Ibadan 4-8 August.

Participants in the DTMA trainingin IITA, Ibadan, Nigeria.
Participants in the DTMA trainingin IITA, Ibadan, Nigeria.

During the opening, Dr Robert Asiedu, IITA’s Research for Development Director for West Africa, urged participants to learn all that they could during the training. “Make use of this opportunity by sharing your experiences and also learning new things from your instructors,” he said.

Dr Dele Fakorede, a breeder, who was also present, added that efforts being made by research institutes and their partners would be futile if seed companies did not reach out to farmers with available technologies.

Twenty six trainees took part in the practical course which aimed at upgrading the technical capabilities and skills of the participants, particularly in quality hybrid maize seed production, variety testing, profitable seed marketing, community-based seed production, and the management of seed production fields.

The training also provided participants an opportunity to fully grasp the limiting factors and mitigation strategies for maize seed production and deployment in West Africa with much emphasis on drought and the parasitic weed Striga hermonthica.