• Saturday, April 13, 2024
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Nigeria, 19 others to benefit from AfDB funded grains research

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  Nigeria and 19 other African countries will directly benefit from the African Development Bank (AfDB)- funded initiative known as the Support for Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops (SARD-SC).

The multiplier effect of the project is expected to affect other regional member countries in the continent. Direct beneficiaries of the intervention include farmers in Nigeria, Benin Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, DR Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

“But the project will have a positive spin-off effect on the other member countries,” according to Chris Akem, project co-ordinator, SARD-SC, at the country launch of the project in Abuja, recently.

Scientists, stakeholders and policy makers say the initiative will help narrow the yield gap facing Africa’s strategic crops, even as most countries on the continent embark on agricultural reforms.

“SARD-SC is a huge opportunity for Nigeria to bridge the yield gap through increased local production,” says Baba Yusuf Abubakar, executive secretary, Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN).

Martins Fregene, representative of the ministry of agriculture, also welcomed the project, noting that it would complement ongoing efforts to transform agriculture. Maize, cassava, rice, and wheat are considered crops of strategic importance for Africa.

In Nigeria for instance, about 20 percent of households consume maize at different times, according to ARCN. The crop is consumed by millions of people as either roasted or boiled and eaten off the cob or as dish prepared from raw or fermented flour, says Sam Ajala, IITA-SARD-SC maize commodity specialist. The country also imports about 3.4 million metric tons of wheat annually to meet its demand. Rice importation is also huge while cassava is both a food security and cash crop.

Abubakar says the project will provide leverage for ongoing reforms, especially the Agricultural Transformation Agenda. Explaining the scope of the SARD-SC, the deputy director general (Partnerships and Capacity Development), Kenton Dashiell says the project has several components including agricultural technologies and innovations generation, agricultural technologies and innovations dissemination, and sustainable capacity development.