The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan and Bayer, a German multinational science company on Wednesday launched a modern breeding project that would ensure yield improvement of important African food crops.
Speaking during the online event in Ibadan, Dr Michael Abberton, the Head of Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR)-IITA’s Genetic Resources Center and the Project Lead, said the 30-month project would build a more effective plant breeding system.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the crops are cassava, maize, cowpea, banana, yam and soybean.
According to Abberton, the project is being funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation at the cost of 1.2 million dollars.
Abberton sad that the project was expected to improve technical and organisational elements patterned after models and best practices from Bayer.
“The project’s beneficiaries are the over 100 million smallholder farmers, who grow IITA’s mandate crops on about 60 million hectares in the humid to semi-arid zones of Sub-Saharan Africa.
“These cover countries such as Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia,” he said.
Also speaking, Dr Mike Graham, the Head of Breeding for Crop Science Division of Bayer, said over the last decade, Bayer increased efficiency in the project would enable IITA benefit immensely.
He said that in supporting Bayer’s mission of Health for All, Hunger for None, it looked forward to continuing its engagement with IITA to help achieve food security in Africa.
According to him, the project which focuses on six crops – cassava, maize, cowpea, banana, yam and soybean, will position IITA for future investments that are more institutional and aligned to the anticipated research.
IITA Cowpea Breeder, Dr Boukar Ousmane, described cowpea as a food and nutritious security crop with a lot of vitamins and carbohydrate.
“It also helped in the adoption of modern breeding approaches, introduction of more effective breeding protocol, research management practices, among others.
“The grant will improve capacity of IITA breeding programmes to increase genetic gains, develop, deliver new products effectively through partnerships with public and private sectors.
“It will also adopt improved phenotyping approaches, trial designs, agronomic management, standardised use of molecular markers, advanced data management tools, among other benefits,” he said.
Earlier, the IITA Director-General, Dr Nteranya Sanginga said one of the institute’s missions was to make agriculture mechanized, dignified while impacting the lives of farmers positively.
Sanginga, represented by Dr Ken Dashiell, the IITA Deputy Director-General Partnerships for Delivery, said it partnered with Bayer, Bill and Mellinda Gates to transform agriculture in Africa as one of its major goals.
“The partnership has been on for many years now, it didn’t just start for us to achieve our goal we need the support of all stakeholder including the private sector,” he said.
Also Dr Stella Salvo, the Bayer Head of Breeding Partnerships for Smallholder Farmers, said one of the key elements of the project was to empower smallholder farmers.
Salvo lauded the IITA team for the collaboration and expressed hope that the partnership would yield its desired results.
Edited By: Joe Idika/Grace Yussuf (NAN)
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