Author Archives: Bola-ade

Project extolled for enhancing food security and reducing poverty in Sierra Leone

The end –of- project international conference on cassava value chain held from 28-30 June 2017 in Sierra Leone, brought to the  front burner the valuable contribution the SARD-SC project has made to food security in target countries; Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Zambia and DR Congo. These contributions were highlighted as part of the project’s successes, experiences and lessons learnt in the target countries since the inception of the project through various presentations and discourse to an audience of eminent government personalities, representatives of World Vision, FAO, scientists, cassava actors and farmers.  The Sierra Leone government was ably represented by Professor Monty Jones, the Minister of Agriculture and forestry and Food security, Mr. Francis Sankoh, Director General of Ministry of Agriculture and Dr. Joseph  Kargbo, Director  Sierra Leone  Agricultural  Research Institute and other important personalities.

Dr. Marie Yomeni, the SARD-SC cassava Commodity Specialist in Sierra Leone welcomed the guests to the conference , informing them of IITA valuable contributions  to improving  food security in Zambia, Sierra Leone, Dr. Congo,  and Tanzania  by partnering  with  respective national programs  to implement  the project.  She said the project’s contribution to food security has been achieved through technological development, dissemination and building capacity of local farmers in agriculture and value addition.

Dr. Chrys Akem, SARD-SC project Coordinator, expressed his appreciation to the AFDB for funding the project that “has helped to reduce poverty and malnutrition levels in target countries.” He commended the collaborating institutions for their commitment to financial reporting and collegiality. For the need o curtail the ever increasing import bill of food into the continent, Dr. Alfred Dixion, Director, Development  and Delivery IITA, urged  the participants  to ensure their countries  embrace agriculture for food  security ,adding that ‘Africa  has ample  arable land  to produce  its own food. He enjoined African governments to involve youth in agriculture by replacing present aging farmers who still practice subsistence farming.

To high light the achievements of the project in target countries, a lot of presentations were made by the project cassava specialist and other country representatives such as Dr. Veronica Uzokwe, Dr. Pheneas Ntawurutunga and others. Dr. Yomeni’s presentation was titled Cassava Contribution to food and Nutrition security: Achievements and Lesson Learned  from which she enumerated the overall achievements of the project  among others as  thus: Ten varieties of cassava have been released; six bio- fortified varieties identified in Zambia, innovation platforms  established in all countries for sustainable dissemination  and adoption of technology; 517  demonstration trails done across the countries, 7199 farmers trained on different cassava value chain aspects;  75 cassava products  were developed in the four project countries,   four  processing centers  developed in four  countries,  17 students  trained:8 PhDs, I MPhil, 8 MScs, youth groups strengthened, 45.6% females and nine infrastructure  developed.

In his remarks , the special guest of honour, Professor Monty Jones, the country ‘s Minister of Agriculture, commended  IITA  for contributing to the development of agriculture in Sierra Leone  and the private  sector  for contributing  to producing  and promoting other crops. He added  that it was time for the continent to  mechanize  agriculture  to enhance food security and  involve  youth  as  a way  of replacing the  present aging farmers  who  still practice  subsistence farming. He informed the audience that he would ensure a policy of incorporating 10% HCQF into wheat for baking confectionery is enforced in Sierra Leone.  Mr. Francis Sankoh, the DG of Sierra Leone Agricultural Institute (SLARI) commended IITA’s role in research for Agricultural development and for transforming agriculture in the country through value addition to cassava and developing the capacity of farmers and women processors.

The project was commended by some of the participants for lifting many people out of poverty through empowering the women on value addition to cassava crops. Validating the out –of- poverty impact of the project, Mr. Ahmed Nanoh, of the Sierra Leone Chamber of Agric- Business Development, gave examples of people who make money by processing cassava and selling ready to eat fufu.

The cassava international conference was lauded as a successful outing, with the caliber of participants such as policy makers, and government officials, presenting an opportunity for project’s countries to showcase their achievements through various presentations by scientists and cassava actors from all  walks of life.

While thanking the participants for attending the conference, Dr. Akem expressed his delight for the quality of their participation and the depth of intellectual discourse on cassava.   Mr. Nanoh presented the end of project document to DG Sankoh who in turn thanked the participants and IITA/SARD-SC project for its impactful role in enhancing food security in Sierra Leone.

 

Maize conference leverages on private sector partnership to boost productivity in Africa

The SARD-SC maize conference held in Livingstone, Zambia,  from 14- 20 May, 2017 was a valuable opportunity  for the maize project and its partners  to interact  with other  stakeholders from Zambia, Nigeria and Africa in general, to share  key issues  pertaining to the maize value chain development, technology  generation  and  dissemination.

The expanded maize conference organized by the SARD-SC maize value chain with the  theme, Improving maize value chain  for transformational impact, “was to showcase our achievements in SARD-SC maize so that the lessons learnt in this conference would be useful for other maize countries and the forth coming TAAT program,” said Dr. Sam Ajala, Maize Commodity Specialist.

In his opening remarks, Dr. David Chikoye, Director of southern   Operations, who represented the Director General of IITA, enumerated key achievements of IITA but raised a pertinent challenge that maybe an obstacle to achieving the transformational impact of maize in Africa as a result of aging farmers, subsistence farming and lack of mechanization.

Dr. Chrys Akem, SARD-SC project coordinator lauded the institutional collaboration the project enjoyed from its partners; AfricaRice and ICARDA, which was responsible for the success of the maize value chain and the project as well. “It has been a challenging four year period and the maize team has come along very strongly.”

The Zambia Minister of Agriculture, represented by the Mr. Sinmu Choba, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry said the conference theme reaffirmed the importance of   maize to the economy and food security of many African countries.  This is because maize farming is by small scale farmers which contribute to their household incomes. He therefore called on researchers in the maize sector to find answers aimed at enhancing small scale farmers’ adoption of improved seed varieties and technologies among others.

An interesting dimension of the conference was the participation of the private sector which cuts across the banking sector in Nigeria and Zambia, Innovare; farming equipment leasing outfit, big conglomerate like Flour Mills of Nigeria(FMN), Babban Gona, a foremost commercial farm growth developer, in Kaduna and Kano, Nigeria, reputed for working with thousands of small holder  farmers while linking them to sustainable  output  markets while increasing their productivity. Interestingly, the participation of the actors from the private sector infused the discussions with a valuable business perspective that could help to achieve the quest for maize transformational impact in Africa.

Mr. Segun Falade, Head, Agro Inputs, Agro Allied Division, FMN, spoke of the need for partnership with both commercial farmers and Small Holder Farmers  to serve as outgrowers as sources of  raw materials for his organization, with the key objective to  reduce importation. The First city Merchant Bank,(FCMB) Nigeria, was represented by Mr. Olushola Obikanye. He spoke of the opportunities open to farmers to borrow money at 9 percent interest rate, based upon the bank’s developed working model which identifies aggregators with their growers and aggregators as primary obligors. Similar sentiments and observations were made by Mr –Arundel – Sakala, Standard Quality Coordinator, of the Zambia Food Reserve Agency that stressed the need for aggregation as a means for a steady supply of maize for food and industrial uses in Zambia thus creating a guaranteed output market and Zanaco, ably represented by –Mr.Chali Mwefyeni, Head Food and Agriculture Banking—who  presented and discussed financial products tailored to the needs of the different categories of farmers aiming to do farming as a business.

Dr. Ajala assessed the conference as “very successful because it has achieved its objective aimed at having a common understanding of what it takes to transform the maize scenario in Africa through enhancing its level of competitiveness.” He was particularly delighted with the involvement of the private sector “that each of them came with a special interest and focus; there were those in the value chain development business, inputs distribution, equipment leasing and end-users. It was an aggregation of people that had a role to play to increase maize productivity.”

Several and various scientific papers were presented accompanied with robust discussion by the audience. Dr. Sam Ajala, the convener of the conference presented two papers on Enhancing Maize Competitiveness in Africa and Maize Seed production and system development under SARD-SC project.

SARD-SC Maize conducts monitoring and evaluation of its activities in Zambia

The SARD-SC Maize carried out its annual monitoring and evaluation exercise for the year in Zambia from 4- 11 April 2017. The objective of the exercise was to ensure the activities conducted in the maize value chain were in line with the laid down objectives of the project. It was also to establish the effectiveness of the project regarding what has been planned against what has been achieved. The seven- man monitoring team was led by Dr. Sam Ajala, SARD-SC project Maize Commodity Specialist. A clear agenda and itinerary was developed and shared by Mr. Jeremiah Hantolo, Project Country coordinator, comprising   meetings and field visits.  The monitoring and evaluation exercise took the team to fields in target districts of the country to interact with the Project direct beneficiaries.

More importantly, the M&E exercise afforded the team opportunity to  assess the success of the various sub-projects  including among others, double density under various use of fertilizers  and  good crop management options  on improving  maize productivity and its rate of adoption among local farmers.

Traversing the countryside of Zambia, the team saw firsthand large swathe of maize farms across the country which have adopted double density method and other techniques of planting maize. Interestingly, all the Innovation Platforms working with the project  have adopted the method and implementing it on their  various farms, having  been taught  the accompanying best agronomic practices and use of  herbicide.

Some of the IPs visited were the Kapita Agricultural Camp IP, Chipata; Katete  IP in Mzime Agricultural Camp,  Kabwe Central; Nambo  Agricultural Camp  in Nkushi district, Mulima Farmer Group, Serenje district, Mainza Youth Group, Mainza village, Monze  District, Kabwembala Women’s club, Mbamunya women club both in Mbamunya village, Agro-business dealers and the  country’s Federal Food Agency  among others.

The team visited some large  maize farms, such as in Nambo Agricultural Camp , in Nkushi District, Kaloso farms, Kabwe among others  with double density planting which the farmers said have been very  beneficial  in terms of robust  yield thus leading to increased  productivity, eliminating intense weeding and  cost effective.

What then is double density method of maize planting? “Double density is increasing plant and fertilizer application on a maize farm. One does not need to hand weed because this method eliminates weeding on maize farm,” Dr. Ajala said. He continues: “Double density and use of herbicide and other complimentary crop management practices are the package that the SARD-SC project is selling to the local farmers. All these help maize yield and reduce drudgery. Once herbicide is applied at the planting stage, the farmer does not need to apply it anymore.”

The ‘gospel’ of double density preached by the project is fortunately and rapidly yielding converts. With project demonstration plots all over the country’s districts, there are worthy and inspiring testimonies from farmers who have embraced the method.  Samson Mwale, one of the farmers under the supervision of Ms. Petronella Hamainda, Camp extension officer, Zambia Ministry of Agriculture, Kapital IP, has  this say : “ I am proud of the  double density  method of planting, it gives me good yield and  the maize  variety Adv637w  planted  close with spacing of 75 by 25cm, boosted my yield. This method eliminates weeding.” Mwale  said he  controls weed  growth  by using pre-emergence  weed killer  which reduced the cost of maintaining the plot , while land preparation cost is  minimal; about 100 kwatcha (10 dollars).

While giving the overview of the Monitoring and Evaluation exercise in Zambia, Dr. Issaka Amadou , SARD-SC Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, concluded that the project has been successful in the country for achieving its set out objectives and  outcomes. “Last year, we saw reduced lack of implementation but this has been corrected.   “We have Demo trials all over the place, training of women in new product development  for maize has been achieved, farmer trainings  on double  density and good crop management, field days have been held and  local farmers have been organized into Innovation Platforms and many of the places we visited we  saw that the  farmers are very committed to executing what the  project taught them.”  Dr. Amadou also said quantity of resources used have been efficient and assured that the project has higher chances of being sustainable after the project ends because of the involvement of development partners such as ZARI.

Other project members on the monitoring and evaluation team were Steve Kingi, Agribusiness Specialist; Seyi Fashokun, Accountant; Ms. Zulfawu Yahaya, Procurement Specialist; and Ms. Bola Adewole, Communication Officer and Ackson Mooya from IITA Zambia. Members of the ZARI team were Friday Sinkamba and Petan Hamzakaza.