By Jimoh Babatunde
Farmers participating in field trials of staple food crops with researchers from the Nigerian national programs and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Kwara State are hopeful of increasing their yield this season, as the growth of plants show promise of a bumper harvest in the days ahead.
The trials which commenced in July this year are part of the Africa Development Bank (AfDB)-funded Community-based Agriculture and Rural Development Project which is targeting four key crops in the region; maize, cassava, soybean and yam.
Joseph Ayeni, a participating farmer, said the maize plants under the trials have better ears and the soybean has more pods. “We expect more yield from this participatory trials because the crops are performing better,” he explains.
Typically, most farmers use local planting materials, a situation that predisposes them to low yields. They also lack farming expertise and in some cases inputs are scarce and not available.
The AfDB-CBARDP project is mitigating these constraints to production by assisting farmers with improved seeds backed with training.
Farmer Kehinde Adeyemi said the trainings were very helpful because they introduced farmers to new ways of farming and getting better results. “For instance, we were trained on the use of recommended plant spacing which is often neglected, and because we adopted the right spacing, we are seeing better results,” he said.
Scientists introduced high yielding and extra-early maturing maize varieties and other varieties that are tolerant of pest and diseases such as Striga and stemborer. The same approach was used for the other crops – soybean, cassava and yams.
The Kwara state’s success story is part of the bigger project which also covers Adamawa, Gombe, Bauchi, and Kaduna. Researchers who are implementing the project come from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, the Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR) and the National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS) both of the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), the National Cereal Research Institute (NCRI) and the University of Ilorin.
Dr. Sam Ajala says the essence of the project is to contribute to house-level food security and enhance income by exposing farmers to better varieties and agronomic practices that increase productivity. Sunday Atanda, Managing Director, Kwara State Agricultural Development Project described the project as ‘good and interesting.’ Our farmers are happy over the results we are seeing,” he says.
According to him, from the plethora of varieties planted, farmers visiting the trials were already making their choices for the varieties to grow in next planting season.
While lauding the partnership between ADP and IITA, Atanda says the project is looking at the whole value chain of the key crops including marketing. Harvest of the trials will be done later this year in an event that will attract more farmers and spark more adoption.