The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and partners on Friday inaugurated a N4.2-billion Yam Improvement for Income and Food Security in West Africa (YIIFSWA-11) project to boost food security.
The Project Leader, Norbert Maroya, who spoke at the project’s inauguration in Ibadan, said that the availability and accessibility of high-quality seed yam of improved varieties were the main focus of the project.
He said that the project was directed at revolutionising the yam production system by transforming the formal seed systems in Ghana, the largest exporter of yam, and Nigeria, the largest producer of yam.
Maroya said that the YIIFSWA project would enter into its second phase, YIIFSWA-11, so as to boost the production of certified seed yam and improve smallholder farmers’ access to high-quality yam varieties.
He said that the five-year project, from 2017 to 2021, which was funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, would be led by IITA, Context Global Development Network/Sahel Capital and the governments of Ghana, Nigeria.
“We are targeting the private sector to make seed yam systems demand-driven for the sustainability of yam production.
“We seek to increase yam production by 30 per cent by establishing a robust seed yam system in Nigeria and Ghana that uses a market-based integrated approach to deliver improved yam varieties to at least 320,000 smallholder farmers for long-term benefits.
“An estimated 7,700 seed enterprises will supply 247,000 hectares of ware (table yam) production in six states of Nigeria — FCT, Benue, Enugu, Nasarawa, Niger and Oyo states — and two regions of Ghana by the end of the project,” he said.
Also speaking, the Director-General of IITA, Nteranya Sanginga said that in Nigeria, three million hectares of land were dedicated to yam production annually; adding that this required production of 30 trillion seed tubers annually.
“The project aims to improve the livelihoods of at least 1.6 million people who depend directly on the yam value chain,” he said.
Sanginga said that although Nigeria accounted for 65 per cent of global yam production, export levels were quite low; adding that despite its socio-economic significance, investment in yam development was extremely low, compared to cassava.
He said that establishing a sustainable yam seed system would ensure that quality seed tubers of improved varieties were produced and made available to farmers and stakeholders at affordable rates.
In his remark, Lauren Good, the Senior Programme Officer, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said that stakeholders deserved to live a healthy life.
Good said that the focus of his foundation was to improve the livelihoods of people, particularly farmers, through the improvement of seeds, including seed yam.
Julius Okonkwo, the Executive Director, National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike, said that the institute would address the dearth of high quality seed yam, which he described as a major constraint facing yam production.
YIIFSWA-11 collaborators include National Agricultural Seeds Council, Nigeria, Plant Protection and Regulatory Services, Ghana.
Others are National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike, Crops Research Institute, Ghana, Ghanaian yam exporters and Yam Development Council, among others.