Author Archives: Bola-ade

Two wheat scientists graduate through full scholarship from Wheat project

In August and September 2016, two students, Mala Kachalla from Nigeria and Bruce Mutari from Zimbabwe, respectively graduated with a Masters after successful studies funded by the SARD-SC wheat project. The AfDB funded SARD-SC wheat component of ICARDA runs a scholarship program to build the capacity of African researchers in various segments of the wheat sector. The project has offered a full scholarship to nine wheat scientists from six African countries to pursue their PhD or Masters Studies on wheat in the fields of breeding, seed production, agronomy, and disease and pest management, among others. The scientists are undertaking their studies in various top level universities across Africa, backed by practical field experience and learning exchanges to other countries in the continent.

Mala Kachalla studied at the University of Maiduguri in northern Nigeria and specialized in “Screening of drought tolerant wheat lines in West African lowland environment and molecular marker analysis, using markers linked to IRS translocation, dwarfing genes and leaf rust resistance.” Through the support of the project, Mala Kachalla attended a DNA molecular training in Morrocco, Rabat.

“The major challenge that bedevils wheat production in West Africa is abiotic stress, particularly heat and drought,” explains Mala. “With the knowledge I have acquired in conventional and molecular breeding, I hope to support the wheat sector in my country to develop varieties that are tolerant to drought and heat stresses,” he adds.

Bruce Mutari, on the other hand, specialized in “Diversity studies and marker assisted improvement for rust resistance in wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) genotypes” from the University of Fort Hare (UFH), Alice, South Africa. Bruce is about to publish three papers, and one of them is on Detection of rust resistance in selected Zimbabwean and ICARDA bred-wheat germplasm using conventional and molecular techniques.

“Before my research, there was limited genotypic information on slow rusting leaf rust (Lr) and stem rust (Sr) resistance genes deployed in Zimbabwe,” says Bruce. “The knowledge generated through my study will assist plant breeders in selecting parents for use in future hybridization programs and design of multi-resistant cross combination cultivars with improved rust resistance,” adds Bruce. This is important because in Zimbabwe, most of the old and present commercial wheat cultivars and promising breeding lines are susceptible to the current races of leaf and stem rust. Demand for wheat in Africa is rising as a result of increasing population, urbanization, and changing tastes, while productivity remains low due to abiotic (mainly heat and drought) and biotic stresses (disease, insects, pests, and weeds). Through these scholarships, the project builds human capacity of the next generation of wheat scientists and researchers who will help the continent address challenges to wheat production and support countries to raise productivity, curb imports, and improve food security and livelihoods. The scholarships are comprehensive and include a stipend, publication and research costs, tuition, travel, and insurance.


Promotion of rice-based technologies and innovations in kano rice hub

AfricaRice in collaboration with national partners are promoting and out-scaling rice based technologies and innovation along the rice value chain to address the lack of improved technologies in African rice production, increase rice yield and income. Along these lines, AfricaRice/SARD-SC project in partnership with national extension service, KNARDA, identified and introduced some key technologies and innovation such as Rice advice and ASI thresher through the IP in Kano state, Nigeria. The main purpose was to encourage local farmers to use RiceAdvice to increase rice productivity and ASI thresher to reduce post-harvest losses. The promotion of these technologies was carried out through the IP with significant involvement of youth to create jobs in the rural areas.

Since implementation of the rice IP and capacity strengthening of five LGA actors in Kano rice hub, the following activities have been conducted for the benefit of the stakeholders through the SARD-SC project: (i) training of fifty youth including extension agents on business plan development, use and maintenance of the ASI threshers for service provision; (ii) donation of 6 ASI threshers to 28 youth (25 male and 3 female) in 5 LGAs (iii) training of sixty-eight youth including extension agents on the use of efficient fertilizer management tool,  RiceAdvice for service provision to IP actors.

In order to enhance awareness of farmers on the availability and accessibility of these technologies, a farmer field day was organized in Rakauna village, Kura LGA, in Kano State. Over two hundred and fifty ( participants, more than 60% IP farmers from Kura, Bunkure, Dawakin Kudu, Warawa,Garin Gallan and Kano, the youth service providers, IP officials and other rice value chain actors including extension (KNARDA and NAERLS), research (AfricaRice, NCRI and IAR), policy makers (district heads), in Kano and Nasarawa States. Kano State attended the event. Some of the remarks from field day participants are recounted below:

El hadj Umar Mohammed, a farmer from Kano said: “The machine is not only a time saver, but also reduces rice grain losses. The chattering (noise) is not much and it is efficient. I also discovered that the machine is multi-crop and I can also use it on my soya bean farm. This is wonderful.”

Saliu K. Suleiman, a RiceAdvier user from Kura LGA, Kano has this to say: “By using the recommendation of Riceadvice, my rice yield increased by 40% to 50%. I’m very happy with the results as I can now use the extra money to take care of my family.”



Sabina Nyahuye declared the best female wheat farmer in Zimbabwe

When Sabina Nyahuye, a wheat farmer from the Hwedza Innovation Platform of the SARD-SC Wheat project, started wheat farming twenty years ago, she says wheat harvests and market were just okay. However, after years of farming the crop on her two hectare piece of land, yields began to drop. “I almost gave up wheat farming in 2009 when challenges became too many,” says Sabina. Access to seed, and other inputs and poor agronomic practices were some of the main challenges she was facing. “I reduced my wheat farm from 2.0 ha to just 0.2 ha and in fact I know of many people from my village who gave up entirely,” she adds.  Sabina’s farm is in Hwedza district, in the province of Mashonaland, 130 kilometers south of Harare, Zimbabwe.

Three years ago (in 2013) the SARD-SC Wheat team in Zimbabwe, working with the country’s Department of Research and Specialist Services DR&SS in the ministry of Agriculture, Mechanization and Irrigation Development visited Sabina’s home area and shared with the local leaders their vision on how they could revive wheat farming. Once the local leadership accepted their proposal, they established demonstration sites for various wheat varieties and farming practices in schemes across the district.  Sabina and several farmers in the area were trained on best practices of wheat production techniques.  They were taught proper watering, soil nutrient management by rotation with legumes, proper land preparation (combining tractor with oxen plough) and proper seed spacing.

The farmers were given an opportunity to evaluate for themselves the performance of varieties in the demonstration farms and after that got farm inputs to try the varieties and practices on their farms.  With this knowledge, new varieties and inputs, Sabina’s wheat production has increased dramatically.  “By 2014 my output had doubled from 2 t/ha to 4.2 t/ha and by 2016 had risen further to 8.0 tons and that is why I was declared the best female wheat farmer in Zimbabwe,” explains Sabina.  As a result, Sabina was one of the smallholder wheat farmers given fertilizers and other farm inputs by the country’s Permanent Secretary for Agriculture, Mechanization and Irrigation Development, Hon. Ringson J.  Chitsiko, for their achievement. Sabina sells her wheat produce for USD 15 for a 20 kilogram bag.  She sells wheat to her neighbours and in the local market. Sabina plans to expand production of wheat. Her success is slowly influencing other farmers in Hwedza to return to wheat farming.

Installation of GEM rice parboiling technology improves local rice production in Lafia

The SARD-SC rice commodity value chain, executed by AfricaRice, in collaboration with NCRI, has installed energy efficient GEM rice parboiling technologies and innovations in the Lafia Innovation Platform, Nassarawa state, Nigeria. In addition, a total of 1,215 rice parboilers, including 915 women and 300 men, were trained on processing and value addition of locally produced rice and the efficient use and management of the GEM rice parboiling technologies.

The formal launch of the Lafia IP took place recently and was attended by the IITA/SARD-SC project Coordinator, Dr Chrys Akem and AfricaRice representative in Nigeria, Dr Francis Nwilene.

Dr Akem remarked that the SARD-SC project has faced challenges in effectively addressing gender equity on active involvement of women in project activities. He noted that the deployment of the GEM rice parboiler in the Lafia IP has fully demonstrated that pairing  gender sensitive technologies with a positive institutional change, can significantly bring about gender mainstreaming into agricultural projects.

The representative of the Emir of Lafia, Hassan Ahmed pledged support and commitment from the local authorities for the progress of the IP. As part of the IP process, the capacity of 37 youth groups has been developed in rice processing and value addition as well as operation of equipment and farming tools. The Lafia IP also received a milling machine and other farming equipment from AfricaRice through the Japan Emergency Rice Initiative.

To date, over 1,200 women households have been reached through the GEM technology and innovations in the IPs in Nigeria. The GEM is being rolled out in combination with enhanced packaging and branding of locally produced rice to attract urban market rice consuming households and contribute to raising incomes of women and employment opportunities for youth in the rural economy. Significant changes have been observed in Nasarawa as a result of the GEM installation and training; improved quality of parboiled local rice, increased incomes, job creation, positive mind-set towards collective action, and improved well-being of rice parboilers who are members of the IPs.

The quality of the parboiled rice is already attracting consumers within and outside the community of Lafia. A total of 249 customers bought IP rice for consumption while 50 bought for trading. The chairman of the Lafia IP, Mr. Jonathan expressed his satisfaction thus: “We like the efficiency of the GEM facility and the new methods to process rice. With the installation of the GEM facility combined with the training on its use, our members have changed their mindset in rice processing and they have adopted good processing practices.”

Furthermore, other rice farmers outside the IP have started reaping the benefits of their training on the use of the GEM technology at the individual household levels. One of such people is Madam Martha Shagar, a member of the Women parboiler group, Ayimon, based in the Lambaga village, Lafia. She said:  I found the new methods and practices to process rice very useful and efficient than our traditional processing activities. The quality of my rice is better than before and the profit also increased. With the new technology, I got a profit of 20,000 Naira on a bag of 120 kg. Thanks to SARD-SC project and AfricaRice.