Ibadan— The improved seeds donated by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to Borno State are lifelines for farmers, and will help rebuild the livelihoods of food insecure persons in the region.
Tagged ‘seeds of renaissance’, the35,930 kilograms seeds comprising cowpea, maize, soybean, rice, sorghum and millet were received by the Governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kashim Shettima on 22 May in Maiduguri.
The delivery of the seeds comes at a time when aid agencies offering food packs are hurt by funding cuts from donor agencies, and some are scaling down their operations.
Dr Kenton Dashiell, Deputy Director General for Partnership for Delivery, IITA, said today in Ibadan that the seeds donated to Borno state were among the best planting materials suited for the semi-arid zone which is divided between Sudan and Sahel savannahs.
“The varieties are extra-early maturing or early maturing, meaning that in few days farmers who plant them can harvest and have food on their table. We encourage farmers to plant these seeds this year because the seeds will help in building their livelihoods, raising their productivity, and by next year these farmers should be able to share their harvest of these improved seeds with their fellow farmers for planting during the 2018 growing season,” he added.
Borno State Commissioner of Agriculture, Mohammed Aliyu Dili said the people of the state were excited over the donation, adding that a seeds are life.
“You have come to give us life…When we heard that IITA was bringing seeds to donate to us, our hearts were filled with joy because we are sure and confident that the planting materials you are giving to us will not disappoint our farmers,” Mr Dili added.
Ravaged by insurgency, the north eastern part of Nigeria in general, and Borno state in particular, is a familiar terrain where IITA and partners have been conducting research. In 2004 to 2009, IITA led a project called Promoting Sustainable Agriculture in Borno State (PROSAB). That project was able to increase productivity and incomes of farmers and it reduced poverty by 14 percent in participating communities. In 2014, IITA began the training of youths under the N2Africa project to establish agricultural businesses. Many of these youths have established and are operating profitable businesses in Borno State.
Mr Dili noted that his first contact with IITA was in the early 1980s when he received improved maize varieties from IITA to plant in a farm in Borno.
“Using the varieties from IITA, we were able to realise more than 6,000 kilograms per ha as opposed to 900 kilograms per hectare using local varieties… So I am optimistic that the varieties we have received from IITA will help our farmers,” he explained.
But besides donating seeds, IITA plans to step up its operations in the northeast by strengthening its office in Borno and increasing its investment in that region.
Dr Dashiell observed that the challenge faced by farmers/IDPs was huge and more humanitarian assistance is needed to bring back normalcy.
“We will be engaging the World Food Program (WFP), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the private sector and other partners to see how we can build common synergy and support the people of North East…Moreover, we are 100% confident that the intelligent, patriotic, motivated and hardworking youths of this great State that we had trained under the N2Africa project would be important participants in revitalizing agriculture and the economy,” Dr Dashiell explained.