By Dele Ogbodo in Abuja
The Executive Director, African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), Dr. Dennis Kyetere, on Friday, said the foundation had spent $16 million through research institutions, Universities and capacity development for farmers on pod-borer resistant beans/cowpea for 8 million farmers in Nigeria, Malawi, Burkina Faso and Ghana.
Mr. Abu Umar, AATF’s Projects Communications Officer, while speaking on phone on the on-ongoing annual review meeting of stakeholders on seeds optimisation at the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan, Oyo State, on the Confined Field Trials (CFTs) on behalf of Kyetere, said the project which started in 2008 with a budget of $20 million would begin the release of seeds to farmers in the region in 2018.
According to Kyetere, the pod-borer resistant cowpea project which was being coordinated by AATF was a public private partnership with funding support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to promote technological interventions and research for that cowpea productivity and utilisation in Sub-Saharan Africa.
He said: “African farmers will soon have access to improved cowpea varieties that will lead to increase in yield with the development of Maruca resistant cowpea, thanks to a public-private partnership project.
“The pod-resistant cowpea project has identified elite varieties and speedily advancing towards de-regulation and commercial release to farmers.
“These varieties are expected to reduce grain yield losses caused by the pod borer, maruca vitrata, as well as reduce the need for insecticidal sprays.”
According to him, control of pests through spraying with insecticide had not been widely adopted by farmers due its prohibitive costs. On the other hand, farmers who had adopted control through spraying had been exposed to serious health hazards, he said.
Kyetere said deployment of a cowpea product that was capable of protecting itself from attack by maruca would make it easier and cheaper for farmers to produce cowpeas in areas where the pest was a problem, adding, that very soon, Nigeria would stop importation of rice and beans into the country.