Western Africa

New project to boost yam production in West Africa

A new project that will develop new varieties of yam and enhance its breeding capabilities and partnerships in the West Africa region will soon be launched. Smallholder farmers in the main yam-growing areas of West Africa will benefit from this new project.

The 5-year project, called “AfricaYam: Enhancing Yam Breeding for Increased Productivity and Improved Quality in West Africa”, will be led by IITA with key partners in the four main producer countries in West Africa: Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Nigeria, and international research organizations and universities.

This crucial staple crop plays a very important role in food security, income generation, and the sociocultural lives of at least 60 million people in West Africa.

“Yam breeding can make major contributions to addressing this situation. The new project will raise the capacity for yam breeding in West Africa by developing high-yielding and robust varieties of white and water yams preferred by farmers and suited to market demands,” said Robert Asiedu, IITA Research for Development Director, Western Africa. He said that important traits for breeding include tuber yield, tuber quality, and resistance to yam mosaic virus (YMV) in white yam and Yam Anthracnose Disease (YAD) in water yam.

IITA scientists inspect yam plants in the field.

IITA scientists inspect yam plants in the field.

The project partners will work towards increasing yam productivity while reducing production costs and impact on the environmental by developing and deploying farmer-preferred varieties with higher yield, greater resistance to pests and diseases, and improved quality.

The project will be supported with a US$13.5-million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and co-financing from participating institutions.

The key project partners in West Africa are the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) and the Ebonyi State University (EBSU) in Nigeria; two research institutes under the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Ghana (the Crops Research Institute and the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute); the Centre National de Recherche Agronomique (CNRA), Côte d’Ivoire; and the Université d’Abomey-Calavi (UAC), Dassa Center, Benin. Research partners outside the subregion are the Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS), and the Iwate Biotechnology Research Center (IBRC) in Japan; the James Hutton Institute (JHI), UK; the Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD), France; and the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research (BTI), Cornell University, USA.

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