By Gabriel Ewepu

AS farmers yearn for good and improved seeds to boost their productivity and profitability, the African Agricultural Technology Foundation, AATF, disclosed of launch of ECOBasic Seeds Company Limited in Nigeria today (Wednesday) to intervene in production of Foundation Seed in Nigeria.

This was made known by the AATF Executive Director, Dr Canisius Kanangire, at a press conference on ‘AATF Intervention in Nigeria’.

Kanangire who is in Nigeria on a solidarity visit thanked the government and people in the last few years of making huge impact and achievement in boosting biotechnology to increase food production.

He also made it known that AATF started working with Nigerian scientists way back in 2004 and opened an office in 2009 following the decision to invest in the improvement of Cowpea, a very important legume on the continent-and central to Nigeria as the leading producer and importer.

He further stated that after a decade of hard work, dedication, and commitment the Nigeria government made Africa proud, and especially the scientists, by approving and releasing the first transgenic cowpea variety in the world in January 2019, saying it is by no means a small feat considering the impact this development will have on the livelihood of smallholder farmers in Nigeria and on the continent.

He also acknowledged that in October 2021 the media in Nigeria was agog with environmental release of insect-protected and drought-tolerant (TELA) Maize by the National Biosafety Management Agency, NBMA.

TELA Maize is one of the AATF projects that aims at addressing the challenges of stem borers, Fall Armyworm (FAW) and drought, which negatively affects food production and incomes of several producer households across Nigeria, which according to him resulted in over $268 million worth of losses in earnings as recorded in four States alone, as of November 2017.

He said: “AATF has been able to intervene through the development of TELA Maize variety that can resist the Fall Armyworm and stem borer while providing moderate tolerance to drought.
“Working with our partner IAR, we will begin nationwide demonstrations of the TELA Maize variety on farmer fields as to showcase TELA maize and pave way for its release in Nigeria as a variety by the National Crop Varieties and Livestock Breeds Registration and Release Committee (NVRC).

“In addition to these productivity enhancing technologies and approaches, AATF is keen to contribute to building an enabling environment for technology development, uptake, and use. One of the means we utilize is advocacy to support education, awareness, and knowledge to help policy decision making, enactment of laws and regulations.

“In this area, AATF’s Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB) is active. Since 2009 and in partnership with the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), we have been able to increase decision making capabilities through advocacy support on these innovative technologies. I am convinced that the efforts under OFAB have contributed to Nigeria’s decision-making capability with regards to scientific innovations.

“The area of technology uptake and use is dependent also on availability of quality products especially seed.

“In collaboration with SEEDAN, National Agricultural Seed Council and other stakeholders AATF will launch a start-up company in Nigeria dedicated to the production of Foundation Seed for Seed companies in the West African Sub-region.
“ECOBasic Seeds Company Ltd is established following a series of interactions with strategic stakeholders in the seed sector in Nigeria that identified the need for a focused intervention in the production and sales of Foundation Seed in the country.

“ECOBasic Seeds Company Ltd has its operational headquarters in Kaduna and will be providing services across the West African Sub-region. The company is coming to fill a very important gap in seed sales and distribution in the region.

“It will provide seed companies with quality foundation seeds to produce certified seeds. The EcoBasic Seed Company will be the second AATF supported company set up to support early generation seed development. The first is the QualiBasic seed company based in Nairobi, Kenya.”

He also made it clear that ECOBasics is not out to take over functions of research institutes in Nigeria, but to work with them and compliment what they are doing.

He also maintained that AATF’s commitment in Nigeria’s agriculture is enormous, as a result of AATF’s involvement developing the Nigerian agricultural sector backed by full government support and partnership.

“Most of those we work with are government institutions – ARCN, IAR, NABDA, Extension services – and it gives us great pleasure to make an impact on the Government goals.

“We also are privileged to work with members of the seed industry, farmer, women, youth organisations, media and many more. Thank you for your dedication and commitment. There is much more than we can do together going forward and we look forward to these opportunities”, he said.

He went further to acknowledge that, “Nigeria is our continental leader in biotechnology deployment and adoption. The country has one of the most functional policies, laws, regulations, structures and adequate institutional framework and human resources to safely deploy biotechnologies to improve productivity.

“We have witnessed the openness with which the Federal Government of Nigeria has operated in the last few years in granting research, product development and product release permits for the good of its citizens while most other countries are still held back by indecisiveness.”

However, pointed that the continent is bedeviled by hunger, poverty and malnutrition which need the “political will of our leaders to overcome. Nigeria has shown its determination to use technology to address the food insecurity challenges.

“I have come to show solidarity and support for the efforts of the Federal Government. The country is on the right path. The benefits of these technologies will begin to manifest as we are already seeing in the case of the PBR Cowpea.”

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