Gates Foundation $25.5 million yam seedling project records progress at IITA

The International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IIITA) Yam Improvement for Income and Food Security in West Africa (YIIFSWA) has recorded significant progress in the rapid multiplication of yam seedlings.
The project which is funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation received $13.5 million between 2011 to 2016, after significant progress was made, the foundation released another $12 million for the project to run from January 2017 to December 2021.
IITA through the project developed and validated tools and technologies to produce yam for the establishment of market-oriented seed systems that ensure the sustainable supply of quality yam seed in Ghana and Nigeria.
The leader of the Project, Dr Norbert Maroya said “we started the first phase in 2011 to 2016 with $13.5 million and in second phase based on achievement, the donor (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) was happy and said take these things out to the private people and they gave us $12m from 1st January 2017 to 31st December 2021 that is what we are finishing now.
“What we developed in the first phase is that instead of cutting and planting yam we are using the leaf, the stem, the vine to develop planting materials like they are doing for sweet potatoes. It was not done before.
“Each plant can produce up to 300 single node vines; it is like maize. When you take the maize, one grain can get you up to 300 grains, with that you don’t have any problem in multiplying the yam instead. If you use it in six months’ time, you’ll be surprised by the output you will get.
He said the project has also trained seed inspectors, established laboratories for them to produce breeder seeds, established solar power and a screen house for the seed companies.
“Because there are a lot of actors in seed production, you have the research, you have the foundation seed producers, you have the certified seed producers. We are trying to develop technology for each of them. Not only we have the research institution, we also have the national agriculture seed council.
“We go around and make sure that the material that they’re producing is quality materials, disease free.
“We train the seed inspectors or the researchers, establish labs for them to produce breeders and the private seed companies, they need energy to produce these small things. We establish solar power in their facilities. We establish 10kva solar panels for each of them. We established screen houses for each of them so that what we are doing at the research, we train them on it so they can also do it at the end. These are really to present myself as the one leading this project”, he said.
Mrs Beatrice Akinribido who is also in the project, said the aim of the project is to rapidly multiply yam, get as many seeds  as possible so that the cost of seed yam would come down and improve varieties that research is producing can get to the hands of the farmers at a cheaper price.
“We are just coming up with the techniques and we have trained the seed companies so because they are business people they want to do it with as many tubers as possible, millions of tubers if possible”, she said.
The Vice Chairman of Da-Allgreen Veggies and Herbs, a seed company, Engr Stephen Atar said they were working towards ensuring that the yam seedlings they produce would be available and affordable for farmers.
“To start with when you talk of making it affordable, that is part of our target and our target is trying to see that the cost of whatever we produce is around what the farmers are used to buy in the market, if there is any variation in spite of the technology we will try to manage in such a way that the cost are affordable may be plus or minus 10% variation.
“That’s how we’re trying to make it affordable, it is the thing that was agreed within us at the commencement of the project, and we are committed to that.
“Now, making it available is an issue of up-scaling. The fact that we’re starting yam now, we have been in other seeds, cereals and others, we have done the same thing, that is what we want to do with yam, but it is just  the yam  technology is a little bit slower than rice and other ones that we do.
“But then the major crux of the matter is that we’ve already acquired the knowledge and technology know-how and our staff have been trained by IITA  and the other collaborators, what we’re asking the government is if we can get financing because that is the main problem of seed.
While seeking financial support from the government, Engr Atar said there is need for government policy to encourage the adoption, “because if we produce and it’s not being bought, it’s a problem. So, the government also has to be involved to encourage the farmers to make them test the technology”. (Nigerian Tribune)

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