Nigerian farmers are getting cleaner seed yams that promise better harvests in the season ahead, thanks to the healthy seed yam producng technique by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture.
The healthy seed yam producing technique involves cutting tubers of yam into small sizes of between 50 and 100 grams, treating them with appropriate pesticides and insecticides before planting.
In Ekiti state, a yam producing region in Nigeria, farmers who participated in the healthy yam project in 2011 now have enough seed yams to plant this season.
Moses Oguniyi, a state extensionist who is partnering with IITA scientists on the project, said farmers have more than doubled their seed yams.
Some farmers planting 200 seed yams before now have enough to plant 500 heaps,” he said.
“Also the quality of the seed yams is very good and farmers love the technology,” he added.
Preferred by most people in West Africa, yams are important sources of carbohydrates in the region which accounts for more than 90 per cent of production.
But a major limitation to production has been the high cost of seed production, in addition to pests and diseases, which lead to poor quality seed yam.
For many farmers, planting for the next cropping season usually demands setting aside up to one-third of harvest. Using the improved technology can reduce this proportion, leaving more yams to feed the family, while the better quality seed produces more still.
Bishop Samuel Oke of the Anglican Diocese of Ekiti West said he was happy that his parishioners participated in the project, citing its empowerment potential especially for those living in the rural areas.
“The healthy seed yam production came at the right time and it has produced benefits,” he said.
To improve the livelihoods of members of the church, the Anglican Diocese of Ekiti West has embarked on several agricultural programs including capacity building and training. One of the modules for training planned for this year is the healthy seed yam technology.
“A few people that participated last year got benefits and we want more to benefit hence the need for training and awareness of this technology,” Oke said.
Returns from yams have been impressive over the years as demand for the crop continues to grow. “Everybody in Ekiti loves yams and they eat the crop mostly in pounded form. Again, we have never experienced glut in yam production which is why we feel most people should be encouraged to grow it,” he explained.
Elsewhere in the state, farmers are equally reaping the benefits of the improved technique.
Farmer Abiodun Fatoki, a father of 3, said he could not believe his harvest.
“The harvest is so bountiful that my wife and I are in awe. We now have enough seed yams to plant next season,” Fatoki said.
The healthy seed yam production project is supported by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) under the Research Into Use (RIU) program. IITA works in collaboration with Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary and Diocesan Development Services (DDS) and is currently being implemented in Abuja, Rivers, Kogi and Ekiti states in Nigeria.
Danny Coyne, and Biodun Claudius Cole, IITA Nematologists, said the technology was addressing the constraints faced by farmers. They expressed optimism that the adoption of the technology would be widespread across Nigeria and would vastly improve the fortunes of yam farmers.