Food insecurity: Institute canvasses adoption of Tela maize, PBR cowpea in Nigeria
The Institute for Agricultural Research, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, has advocated adoption of Tela maize and PBR Cowpea, a new genetic solution aimed at mitigating low production capacity in Nigeria.
The institute in collaboration with Africa Agricultural Technology Fund, are developing Tela maize to bridge the country’s huge demand deficit and continue depletion of foreign reserves on importation of maize.
Data obtained from IAR indicated that Nigeria imported 400,000 metric tonnes of maize in 2019 to augment huge demand despite it’s local production of 18,000 metric tonnes.
Nigeria required production of five metric tonnes per hectare as against the average of two metric tonnes to meet local consumption, the data further shows.
Despite the large shortage, farmers are still battling with annual devastation of post harvest loss as a result of stem borer insects which rake millions of metric tonnes every season.
Tela maize, a transgenic seed which is scientifically modified to tolerate drought and resist insect penetration, is being nurtured to address farmers’ challenges and mitigate looming food crises.
Addressing farmers, agricultural processors and other critical stakeholders at a town hall meeting in Kano, Executive Director, Institute for Agricultural Research, ABU, Zaria, Prof. Mohammad Faguji Ishiyaku, explained that the intervention of Tela maize was born out of commitment to sustain government policies on food stability.
Prof. Ishiyaku stressed that the new technology, which is currently under incubation would be ready for multiplication and final release to the farmers in 2022.
The executive director said the institute recorded appreciable success during its field demonstration on PBR cowpea variety, an improved technology resistance to maruca and other pod borer insects.
He revealed that the town hall meeting was designed to introduce new agricultural solutions and capture farmers’ impression on the existing varieties with the aim of improving on specific areas of challenges.
“The actual Tela maize, genetically modified to drought tolerant and insect resistant, will have to go for another year of multiplication before it is ready so the 2022 target is still very much intact. Although, the national seed council has the mandate to ensure the quality of seeds among the seed companies in the country, produce a required standard at the same time we at the institute have our mechanism to ensure the quality of seeds is maintained.
“For instance, we scrutinise the license companies and ensure we choose the best among them to deliver. In addition to complying with the standard of the National Seeds Council, the companies still need to meet our rules too.
“We have addressed the constraints of maruca which is part of pod borer insects, we have also improved the technology on cowpea to essentially shorten the maturity period. Besides the GMO, we have developed another cowpea variety that is drought tolerant and another variety that will answer the consumption pattern, I mean consumers preferences.
“Some consumer’s desire white while others want brown, so we have developed a variety to provide this solution. We are aware and ready to hear the concern of farmers, process our technology and instantly improve on the solutions based on their observations and constraints.
“We have also developed safe and cheap cowpea storage methods that will enable farmers to keep the grains for a very long period of time without the use of chemicals. Besides, we are working on genetic solutions that will enable cowpea to protect themselves. We are working on that project and work is in progress.
“The first step has been accomplished, one of the high breed varieties has been released officially and when the seeds are multiplied in good quantities like 10,000 to 30,000 metric tonnes, about 30,000 bags, we can start selling.”
Representative of Africa Agricultural Technology Fund (AATF), Dr. Yusofu Kollo, maintained that AATF is committed to supporting research on food security in Africa, adding that social peace can only be guaranteed through provision of affordable and accessible food.
Kollo hinged AATF investment on sufficient food production in Nigeria, reminded that the country required effective collaboration between government and critical stakeholders to mitigate food insecurity in the country.
“We have the impression that farmers are very satisfied with the solutions of cowpea and Tela Maize and cowpea. Already farmers have witnessed the field demonstration of cowpea and they attested to the amazing outcome and yield in terms of period of maturity and the bumper harvest. The cowpea technology is fortified to resist pod borers. We have no doubt the Tela maize project will be successful and enjoy the same warm reception cowpea received.
“AATF contribution has contributed to the huge success of the development of technology in Nigeria. We created synergy and partnership with the research institute and tried to address the constraints to solve the problem. We brought IAR, and other scientists to achieve a common goal. Partnership is key because no single institution can solve challenges of food insecurity,” Kollo said.
Also addressing the stakeholders, principal investigator on Tela maize, Prof. Rabiu Adamu disclosed that the technology is presently implemented in seven African countries, including South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Nigeria.
He explained that the project, when finally released into the market will put to end farmers post harvest loss, uplift their economic status and improve the country’s capacity to meet local consumption.
Chairman, Maize Farmers Association of Nigeria, Kano chapter, Alh. Mukaila Garba lamented cases of drought and adulterated seeds among major challenges depleting maize farmers efforts to meet demand.
Garba explained that farmers required full proof assurance of the scientists that the new technologies will end their incessant post harvest loss.