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Gates Foundation $25.5m yam seedling project records success at IITA

The International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IIITA) Yam Improvement for Income and Food Security in West Africa (YIIFSWA) has recorded significant progress in the rapid multiplication of yam seedlings.

The leader of the Project, Dr Norbert Maroya said this on Friday at the Yam Field Day to celebrate the achievement of the IITA-YIIFSWA-II project which would be winding down at the end of the year after 10 years of active research work.

The project which was funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation received $13.5 million between 2011 and 2016, after significant progress was made, the foundation released another $12 million for the project to run from January 2017 to December 2021.

IITA through the project developed and validated tools and technologies to produce yam for the establishment of market-oriented seed systems that ensure the sustainable supply of quality yam seed in Ghana and Nigeria.

Maroya said “we started the first phase in 2011 to 2016 with $13.5 million and in second phase based on achievement, the donor (Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) added $12m from 1st January 2017 to 31st December 2021 that is what we are finishing now.

“What we developed in the first phase was to use the stem, vine and leaf to develop planting materials instead of cutting and planting yam like they are doing for sweet potatoes.

“Each plant can produce up to 300 single node vines like maize. When you take the maize, one grain can get you up to 300 grains, with that you don’t have any problem in multiplying the yam instead.

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He said the project has also trained seed inspectors, established laboratories for them to produce breeder seeds, established solar power and a screen house for the seed companies.

“Because there are a lot of actors in seed production, you have the research, you have the foundation seed producers, you have the certified seed producers.

“We are trying to develop technology for each of them with the help of the research institution and national agriculture seed council.

“We go around and make sure that the material that they are producing is quality materials, disease free.”

The Vice Chairman of Da-Allgreen Veggies and Herbs, a seed company, Stephen Atar said they were working towards ensuring that the yam seedlings they produce would be available and affordable for farmers.

“To start with when you talk of making it affordable, that is part of our target and our target is trying to see that the cost of whatever we produce is around what the farmers used to buy in the market,

“If there is any variation in spite of the technology we will try to manage in such a way that the cost are affordable may be plus or minus 10% variation.

“Now, making it available is an issue of up-scaling. The fact that we’re starting yam now, we have been in other seeds, cereals and others, we have done the same thing, that is what we want to do with yam, but it is just that the yam technology is a little bit slower than rice and other ones that we do.

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“But the major crux of the matter is that we’ve already acquired the knowledge and technological know-how and our staff have been trained by IITA and the other collaborators, what we’re asking the government is finance which is main problem of seed.

According to him, there is need for government policy to encourage the adoption, “because if we produce and it’s not being bought, it’s a problem. So, the government also has to be involved to encourage the farmers to make them test the technology”.

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