Dorcas Olubunmi Ibitoye, from National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHORT), one of the seven students who just graduated from the West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI) at the University of Ghana with PhDs in Plant Breeding, has promised to develop resistant tomato varieties to mitigate the adverse impact of ‘tomato ebola’ and increase the productivity of tomato in Nigeria.
Speaking at the graduation ceremony recently, she said “at present in Nigeria, Tutaabsoluta, an emerging pest referred to as ‘tomato ebola’ is causing 100% destruction of tomato.
“National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHORT), where I work as a breeder has national mandate for tomato improvement. I, therefore, intend to develop resistant tomato varieties to mitigate the adverse impact of this pest and increase the productivity of tomato. The training I have received at WACCI has equipped me for this great task.”
The research works of the seven graduating researchers – 4 women and 3 men targeted priority crops for the region such as maize, cowpea, sorghum and cassava.
The last ten years have witnessed a significant growth in the agricultural sector as farmers, especially smallholder farmers, who constitute 70 per cent of the African population, continue gaining more options in the seeds they plant, in the fertilizers they use, and in the markets available to purchase their produce.
However, realization of the sector’s full potential continues to be impeded by the acute shortage of world-class plant breeding specialists across the continent. At the moment, Africa has about 500 active breeders, which is about a tenth of the recommended number.
Although the task of bridging this gap is still huge, Dorcas Olubunmi Ibitoye and the other six researchers will join 28 researchers , who graduated from the same programme in the last eight years; to conduct research on higher yielding, locally adapted crop varieties.
Their expertise, combined with Africa’s weather, good soils, and the industry of the African farmers is hoped will improve yields of the key staples, promote food security, improve nutrition and generally result in inclusive socio-economic growth and development.