Over 2,000 farmers targeted in full commercialization programme

By Onche Odeh

Ahead of the full commercialization of the Pod Borer Resistant (PBR) Cowpea in Nigeria, the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) has constituted a team of experts drawn from various institutions to monitor and ensure quality sustainance and seed purity.

The 11-member AATF-led stewardship committee  consisting of breeders, field investigators and biotechnologists drawn from Nigeria’s National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Zaria, Nigeria’s National Seeds Council, National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS) and some seeds companies would be responsible for keeping tab on the progress of the newly developed Pod Borer Resistant variety of beans (cowpea) to ensure that Maruca, the stem boring insect does not evolve to another version that may defy the PBR defence.

Head of Department, Plant Science at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Dr. Mohammed Umar, the Trial Manager for PBR cowpea, Nigeria, who gave details on the newly constituted team said, “You know what comes with anything that comes new.  We have to monitor it so that there is no adulteration. We want to maintain the purity of what we produced, so what we did currently is that we inaugurate the National stewardship committee and the main purpose of the committee is to try and ensure the proper handling of the new variety, this is because we have told farmers that seed requires only two times spray and if farmers buy the adulterated seed and find out that it requires more than two times spray, then what we have worked hard to achieved will be wasted. We are working on the production guide and very soon it will be ready where each farmer that buys the seed will be issued the guide on how to produce for maximum yield.”

Meanwhile Nigeria is about moving from the field trials of PBR cowpea to farms in a seed multiplication programme that would benefit over 2,000 farmers across Nigeria.

“We are going through a training process so that everybody will understand their roles and responsibilities and the mandate they have to fulfill with farmers, so that farmers can have sustainable and durable benefits of the products, AATF’s Product Stewardship Lead Francis Nwankwo, said.

Giving progress details on the PBR cowpea project, Nwankwo said, “We are up-scaling it so that more farmers can plant it this year. We are targeting July planting season around North Central and North West zones. That is why we thought is wise to set up different committees.’

He projected that up to 10 tons planted in the dry season to be multiplied would be ready for harvest before June.

Dr. Umar gave more details on the seed multiplication project.

He said, “We are currently into seed multiplication of PBR cowpea. Last year we produced, but couldn’t produce in a large quantity to meet the demand of the farmers in the country. so we decided to plant during dry season so that before the next rainy season, we will make available for the farmers as well as the seed companies.”

Meanwhile, three seed companies, Maina seed, Tecni SEed and Saro agro sciences have been engaged to champion the seed multiplication project.

“We are interacting with them to see how they can start selling the products to the farmers. Engaging seed companies alone will not be the last stage. We want to also conduct promotion exercise and prioritise where cowpea is grown most,” Dr. Umar said.

“We are targeting not less than 2000 farmers across the country. Last year we had demonstration in nine states including FCT and we were able to retrieve the seed from the farmers where we had post-harvest assessment for analysis. Very soon we will inform the public where the seeds will be available,” he added.

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