The intervention of the Support to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops in Africa (SARD-SC) project in 20 Regional Membership Countries (RMCs) in Africa has transformed the cultivation of cassava, maize, rice, and wheat. It has also added value to these crops through the introduction of high-yielding varieties, new processing methods, and other agricultural innovations and technologies.
In the lush greenery of the southern highlands of Tanzania, one of IITA’s leading research delivery projects, the Africa RISING–NAFAKA project, is blazing the way in applying GIS tools to add more precision to their scaling methodologies. The project, which is funded by the United States.
IITA, under the Improved Seeds for Better Agriculture (SEMEAR is the Portuguese acronym) project of the US Government Feed the Future (FTF) initiative, seeks to sustainably increase the adoption of improved technologies of cowpea, soybean, and sesame to increase incomes and food security of smallholder farmers, especially women. This is through increasing the production and supply of seeds of improved varieties, strengthening the seed systems, enhancing the capacity of national partners to produce basic and certified seeds, and facilitating adoption.
At the end of Phase 1 (2010-2013), the project had developed several products including certified seeds of improved varieties, inoculants, legume fertilizers, and laborsaving tools and services that benefited some 225,000 small-scale farmers in DR Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe.
The SILT research aimed to test and understand how a campaign approach, with different formats and media targeting different members of a typical small-scale farming family (i.e., with young/older or male/female and combinations), could best reach each individual, and then influence their knowledge, decision-making, and adoption as a household. The extension and communication information was presented as a campaign-based approach, and the technical campaign material was all drawn from a single, technical brief developed by the delivery consortium.
Specifically, the project sought to understand the contextualized insights into the merits of different combinations of media and approaches, to provide key learnings for future scaling-up programs, while at the same time increasing the profitable production of common bean and soybean in Tanzania.
Developing high-yielding, multiple stress tolerant soybean varieties through multidisciplinary partnerships is at the core of IITA’s soybean breeding program. The specific objectives include: (i) developing well coordinated and characterized soybean trait pipelines that include drought tolerance, rust resistance, phosphorus use efficiency, and high biological nitrogen fixation (BNF); (ii)accelerating cultivar development pipelines by putting together the must-win traits; (iii) establishing an effective breeding management and bioinformatics database for soybean; and (v) capacity and capability building through training postgraduate students and mentorship of breeders in the national agricultural research systems (NARS).
Year 2017 witnessed the realization of these outcomes as many of the youth trained under the program became CEOs in the agricultural sector and created jobs for other unemployed youth.
In male-headed households, both men and women perceived themselves as investing more time in farm-related activities than their partners. This result was hugely contested during focus groups; both male and female respondents agreed that men often dedicate more time to fruit vegetable production, while women dedicate more time to leafy vegetable production (see figure). Nevertheless, women still emphasized that they perceive themselves as dedicating more time to farming than men.
The initiative plans to reach approximately 320,000 smallholder farmers in six states in Nigeria (Benue, Enugu, Federal Capital Territory, Nasarawa, Niger, and Oyo) and two regions in Ghana (Brong Ahafo and Northern), the two project countries. In the process, other groups such as the certified seed yam producers and marketers will also benefit from selling the high quality yam seed and developing seed business skills for long-term livelihood improvement. Similarly, technical and infrastructural capacities will be strengthened for the national research partners and for the private seed companies to profitably propagate enough high-quality prebasic and basic seed yam.
However, despite its value and critical role in both food security and income generation for smallholder farmers, its cost of production is much higher than other crops in the region. It has high labor requirements—land preparation, planting, staking, weed control, and harvesting. In addition, farmers must save up to one-third of their harvested crop as seed for planting in the next season. Yam is also highly vulnerable to a plethora of pests and diseases as well as population pressure and climate change; and its growing demand has driven cultivation of this crop onto less fertile land.
In the regions of Kilimanjaro, Arusha, and Mbeya these bananas can provide up to 30% of the caloric intake, bringing a premium price in the local markets. However, Mchare growers face serious obstacles as these bananas are susceptible to almost every major disease and pest of banana in Africa, as well as being particularly vulnerable to a new strain of Fusarium that has been reported in Mozambique.