Olufemi Atoyebi, Ibadan
Nigeria and Ghana are beneficiaries of the N3.6bn International Institute of Tropical Agriculture’s yam development project, which is being funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
In Nigeria, the Yam Improvement for Income and Food Security in West Africa Project II will be implemented in the Federal Capital Territory, Oyo, Benue, Enugu, Niger and Nasarawa states; while in Ghana, it will be implemented in Brong Ahafo and Northern Ghana regions.
At the launch of the project at the IITA in Ibadan on Friday, the project leader, Norbert Maroya, said the grant would be used to develop and scale out seed yam business that would provide healthy seeds of more productive variety for farmers in the identified areas.
Maroya said the project would run for five years from 2017, and that it would enhance productivity and food security for smallholder farmers.
He stated, “The IITA and partners seek to increase yam production by 30 per cent by establishing a robust seed yam system in both Nigeria and Ghana, using a market-based, integrated approach to deliver clean, quality seed yam of improved variety to farmers for long term benefit.”
The project leader explained that cassava was the foremost crop produced in Nigeria with 41 million tonnes annually and market value of $6.85bn.
He, however, said that despite lower yam production each year in the country, it had the market value of around $13.7bn and had the capacity to increase by 30 per cent annually with the new yam seed technology that would benefit farmers in the next five years.
Maroya said that although Nigeria accounted for 65 per of global yam production, the export level was significantly low, adding that the nation was not among the first five yam exporting countries of the world, which are Costa Rica, Ghana, Jamaica, Brazil and Panama.
The YIIFSWA boss was, however, optimistic that the project would improve the livelihood of at least 1.6 million people that depend directly or indirectly on the yam value chain in Nigeria.
The President, All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Chief Tola Adepomola, highlighted the beauty of the project, saying that Nigerian farmers were still faced with storage challenge.
He said that with the creation of wider yam value chain, the loss and wastes recorded annually would reduce.
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