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February 08, 2010

Yam research in West & Central Africa gets EU funding support

Research to improve and promote yam in West and Central Africa (WCA) has received a €750,000 (about US$1 million) grant from the European Union-African, Caribbean and Pacific Science and Technology Program (EU-ACP). The program will benefit six WCA countries: Cameroon, Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Togo.

The support comes amidst renewed global interest on yam as a vital income and food security crop in Africa.

The research project tagged, “Strengthening Capacity for Yam Research-for-Development in Central and Western Africa (SCYReC)” aims to improve the capacity for yam research-for-development in the region.

The project will help find sustainable solutions, through science and technology, to the challenges facing the crop and exploit its tremendous potential for food security and poverty alleviation.

IITA will manage and implement the project in collaboration with a team of national partners in 13 research institutions in the six countries.

“This is something good for the region where yam plays an important role in nutrition and economic well-being of the people,” says David Annang, IITA-SCYReC Project Coordinator. “We are hopeful that the project will tackle the many challenges facing increased yam production,” he adds.

Despite its contribution to food security, yam faces a plethora of limitations among which are high costs of planting material and of labor, decreasing soil fertility, inadequate yield potential of varieties, as well as the increasing levels of field and storage pests and diseases associated with intensification of cultivation.

The labor requirements in yam cultivation for mounding, staking, especially in the forest zone, weeding, and harvesting exceed those for other starchy staples such as cassava. These account for about 40% of yam production costs while 50% of the expenditure goes to planting materials. The seed yams are also perishable and bulky to transport. If farmers do not buy new seed yams, they must set aside up to 30% of their harvest for planting the next year.

The EU-ACP-funded project, therefore, seeks to tackle these challenges by helping in the development of a framework for yam research-for-development in WCA. It will also build and increase the capacities of partners, and provide a platform for increased documentation and dissemination of information from yam research and development.

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