Western Africa

Two new yam projects launched: CAY-Seed and YAMSYS

Two new projects on yam were launched recently: Community Action for Improving Farmer-saved Seed Yam (CAY-Seed) and Biophysical, institutional and economic drivers of sustainable soil use in yam systems for improved food security in West Africa (YAMSYS).

CAY-Seed was launched on 23 February, in Kumasi, Ghana, by the Ashanti Regional Minister, Hon. Dr Samuel Sarpong. CAY-Seed is a 3-year project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with CSRI-Crop Research Institute, Ghana, as the lead implementer. A representative of the Gates Foundation, Ms Claire Kpaka, was present at the launching, as well as other partners: IITA, National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike, Nigeria, Institute of Statistical Social and Economic Research (ISSER), Ghana, Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary/Diocesan Development Services (MSHR/DDS), Nigeria, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Ghana, Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ghana, and seed yam farmers.

In his opening remarks at the launching, Dr Victor K. Agyeman, the Director General of CSIR, encouraged all partners working on the project to ensure that the plight of yam farmers as regards the availability of good quality seeds was  addressed.

The project will work at establishing a sustainable seed yam system that will improve food security and reduce the poverty of smallholder yam farmers in pilot yam-growing areas of Ghana and Nigeria. To achieve this, emphasis will be placed on using positive selection and sorting, integrated soil and crop management practices, and knowledge sharing among key actors along the yam value chain in the selected communities.

After the launching, a planning meeting followed with presentations and discussions on all components of the project. The i-Train and Evaluate Center (i-TEC), a consulting firm, made presentations to orient the CAY-Seed project partners on the logical framework theory and results framework to raise awareness on the need to move beyond implementation monitoring to results monitoring.

CAY-Seed is linked to the Yam Improvement for Income and Food Security in West Africa (YIIFSWA) project as both projects are working with the same farmers in the selected communities.

Meanwhile, YAMSYS, a 6-year project aimed at improving the productivity of yam in Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso, was launched at the Swiss Centre for Scientific Research (CSRS) in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, 2-6 March.

This meeting brought together a group of scientists made up of Board members, project coordinators, and supervisors of students to be trained in the project, as well as the accountants of project partners. Altogether, eight partner institutions were present: IITA; Felix Houphouët-Boigny University, Côte d’Ivoire Swiss Centre of Scientific Research (CSRS) in Côte d’Ivoire, the International Center for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF); the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) Switzerland; Institut de l’Environnement et de Recherches Agricole (INERA) Burkina Faso; Bobo-Dioulasso Polytechnic University (UPB), Burkina Faso; and École Polytechnique Fédérale de Zurich (ETHZ), Switzerland.

A work planning meeting immediately followed the launch with the aim of getting all members of the team to have a common vision as a basis for a successful take-off and eventual execution of all activities of the project. Issues discussed included assignments for partners, establishment of innovation platforms, methods of internal and external communication, selection of pilot sites and communities, budgeting for activities of year 1, a unified understanding of project accounting principles by partner accountants, and monitoring and evaluation of YAMSYS. There were also presentations and reflections on the concepts, objectives, methodologies, and results of other ongoing yam projects such as YIIFSWA and the yam MAFF projects of IITA, and the Yam Project of Sri Lanka. This was intended to enable partners to draw lessons which would help in the smooth operation of YAMSYS.

A field trip took participants to the Wholesale Market of Bouaké, where discussions were held with traders and market officials on the marketing of yam, the second largest commodity after kola nut. Discussions were held with an existing Cassava Platform in Bouaké to facilitate the formation of yam innovation platforms and learn from their experiences. At the end of the meeting, a selection was done for candidates who had applied for positions for PhD, MSc, and site managers.

The project YAMSYS is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (FNS) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) to the tune of 3 million Swiss francs.

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