Project to improve cowpea seed takes off
A project, “Taking Cowpeas to Scale in West Africa,” aimed at improving the cowpea seed sector in the three Northern Regions has taken off.
The three-year project (2015 – 2017) being sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), will focus on a series of best-bet cowpea production technologies, reflecting input from International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), USAID Missions, and other key partners in the country.
Its goal is to improve the lives and livelihoods of dry-land farmers in 38 districts in the three regions, and increase the sustainability of the cropland on which they depend through greater reliance on performance by cowpea as a key component within their farming systems.
It is being implemented by the Savannah Agricultural Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR – SARI) in partnership with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, IITA, Crop Research Institute, Catholic Relief Services, Management for Development, Heritage Seeds Company amongst others.
Speaking at the project implementation workshop in Tamale, Dr Stephen Nutsugah, Director of CSIR – SARI said it would improve seed planning and connect actors along the cowpea seed value chain, strengthen capacity of cowpea seed value chain actors, and encourage the use of certified and quality declared seed by cowpea farmers.
The workshop was to enable the implementing partners of the project to reach a common understanding of the goals and the milestone as defined by the project document and implementation strategy, as well as agree on their various roles and responsibilities under the project.
Dr Nustugah said the government was focused on partnering with the private sector, to eliminate constraints limiting agricultural investment in the country, citing the National Seed Policy as one of the interventions to tackle the challenges in the seed sector.
He mentioned actors along the cowpea value chain that would benefit from the project, which include farmers producing cowpea and fodder, seed producers (community-based and small and medium enterprises), manufacturers and distributors of bags for hermetic storage of cowpea seeds and grains.
The rest are farmers and traders engaged in storage and selling of cowpea for planting or use as food, processors engaged in transformation of cowpea grains to flour, food vendors who prepare popular dishes and snacks from cowpea for sale, and transporters who link production sites with markets.
Dr Nutsugah said the project had come at an opportune time to enhance food security, and increase incomes of smallholder cowpea producers, traders and processors through increased production of good quality cowpea.
He urged farmers and the other actors in the value chains to embrace the initiative, and make good use of the technologies to be introduced to improve productivity and quality.
Dr Ibrahim Atokple, Manager of the USAID Cowpea Project, mentioned the technologies to scale up, as part of the project, which include quality seed of improved cowpea varieties, integrated pest management, appropriate crop management practices, and improved postharvest and seed/grain storage.
Dr Atokple said dual purpose cowpea varieties with grain and fodder yields would be included as they would serve as sources of quality fodder for livestock especially in the dry savannah areas.