THE African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) has said that Nigeria could save huge money but cutting down on cowpea importation.
The Regional Head of AATF in Abuja, Dr Issoufou Abdourhamane, made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Tuesday.
He said: “Nigeria is the biggest importer and producer of cowpea in Africa and the world. If Nigeria can cut down importation by 20 or 30 per cent, it will be saving the country, hundreds of millions of Naira annually. If you look at it, it is billions you are talking about.”
He described cowpea as a big cash crop and cowpea scientists in Africa in the late 80s found out that the limiting factor in the field was `maruca pod borer’, an insect pest of the commodity.
“So since then, people have been trying to develop resistant variety cowpea, unfortunately cowpea naturally doesn’t have any resistance.
“The development of biotechnology in late 80s and early 90s showed that there is a way because BT Cotton, BT Maize and BT Soybeans have been very popular and successful in the U.S.
“They were able to develop the BT Cowpea after difficult challenges, which will help boost the production of cowpea because we can double the yield of cowpea.
“We can do that easily if maruca is the challenge and in the area of marca challenge, we can easily double the yield. By doing this, not only do we improve food production, we’ve improved protein content,’’ he said.
According to him, the reason for the establishment of the AATF with a presence in other African countries was to intervene and ensure food sufficiency and security.
“With mechanised farming and intervention in crops like cowpea, cassava, and currently rice which is underway, Nigeria can be sure of food security from that perspective. AATF is an organisation which focuses on some constraints faced by small holder farmers usually because in Sub-Saharan Africa, we don’t have large producers.
He also noted that mechanised farming would go a long way in boosting food production in the country stressing that one of the AATF’s initial projects on-going in six states in Nigeria is cassava mechanisation.
He said the commodity is a big and important food crop in the country and many other countries.
“One of the key components of cassava production is drudgery, how much labour it takes to plant, weed and harvest cassava because cassava is a shrub. We had to show people that solutions exist, the cassava mechanisation development going on in collaboration with the National Mechanisation Centre is having very good success and impact,’’ he said.
Abdourhamane said that farmers were not only into mechanised farming but were also taught how to weed at the right time, how to control insect pest on cassava and improve the soil fertility.
“As a result of the AATF cassava mechanisation, they were able to multiply the yield from eight to more than 30 tonnes per hectare and this is a real success story,” he said.