One year on from our last report on the Gates Foundation funded yam project in West Africa; Yam Improvement for Income and Food Security in West Africa (YIIFSWA), all project partners gathered at International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan, Nigeria for a mid-project progress and planning workshop from 17-21 February 2014.
Working together, NRI and project partners are helping to advance new initiatives towards improving incomes for those in the yam sector, and enhancing food security in order to meet overall project targets of improving the incomes of 200,000 farmers (150,000 Nigeria and 50,000 Ghana) and increasing output/reducing yam losses by 40%. The project is led by IITA, other key partners include; AGRA Farmer Organizations Support Centre in Africa (FOSCA), National Root Crops Research Institute, Nigeria (NRCRI) and Crop Research Institute, Ghana (CRI).
NRI is leading objectives on strengthening small-scale yam farmer and trader market linkages, post-harvest handling and storage to reduce losses, and improving processed yam quality. We are also collaborating with IITA on yam virus diagnostics and FOSCA on gender and social diversity. The gender and social diversity research explored the roles and participation of women, men and other social groups in different aspects of yam production and marketing.
Dr Robert Asiedu (Director, Research for Development, IITA West Africa) was particularly complimentary in his opening remarks regarding the 'yam development forum' initiative to conduct cross-objective workshops and outreach activities in project locations in Nigeria and Ghana. This initiative, advanced by NRI with IITA and FOSCA, has been established at grassroots level comprising members from different yam production and marketing stakeholder groups (i.e. farmers, marketers, transporters, traders, and local partners such as extension officers and NGOs). The forums can be used to facilitate learning across different project locations and countries (Nigeria and Ghana).
NRI will continue to help advance work on business and marketing development, storage trials, post-harvest treatment of yam, communications strategies, improved yam processing, seed yam business development, and yam virus research. Project plans have been established for 2014 that include much closer and more strategic collaboration between different partners in the project.
In order to meet project targets there is a need to significantly improve market links and opportunities, development of clean seed yam production and commercialisation, capacity development of key actors (e.g. farmer organisations), enhanced use of ICT in yam business and marketing, and reduced losses from post-harvest storage and handling.
The long-term aim is to incorporate other parts of West Africa in the yam development journey and so representatives from Burkina Faso and Mali were invited to attend and were present at the meeting.
So, we are still yamming and many others are too!
Project website: http://www.iita.org/web/yiifswa/home
Twitter: @NRInstitue @YIIFSWA