IITA Research Eases Fears Over Yam Supplies As Nigeria Kicks Off Export


… Nigeria explores new areas of collaboration with IITA

Research being conducted by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in seed yam multiplication holds promise and could help Nigeria to quadruple yam production, says Nigeria’s Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbe, who ends a two-day visit in Ibadan today.

Addressing reporters after a tour of IITA facilities including cassava fields, the aflasafe (a biocontrol product for controlling aflatoxins) production plant, the seed yam production facility through the aeroponics system, and a soybean inoculum fertilizer facility; Chief Ogbe said the quality of research at IITA was reassuring and could help Nigeria to address food security challenges and rev up exports.

L-R Minister of Agriculture

The Minister, who met with the Director General of IITA, Dr Nteranya Sanginga and other top officials of IITA, said the government would work more closely with IITA to ensure that technologies being developed by the Institute are scaled out to farmers.

According to him, agriculture holds the future but it cannot be achieved through the use of hoes and cutlasses.

“Agriculture is not just hoe and cutlasses but also research and science. That is what IITA is offering. This institute has come to play a role not just for Nigeria but Africa,” he explained.

He added that: “Agriculture has a future. Agriculture has fortunes, and with an Institute like this, those who want to go into agriculture and make money should know that there is money to be made. With you (IITA) we can move forward.”

On 29 June, Nigeria launched the export of yams with 72 tons of tubers from the country to the United States and Europe, sparking concerns over the ability of the country to sustain exports owing to the high cost of seed yams which is exacerbated by a lack of knowledge on modern seed yam multiplication techniques.

Traditionally farmers are compelled to reserve as much as 30 percent of their harvest as seeds for the next planting season. However, researchers from IITA and national partners have developed the aeroponic system of seed yam multiplication whereby the vines of the crop are used in propagating seed yams rather than tubers.

Through these method, farmers may not need to reserve their harvest for the next planting season but can simply produce seed yams for the planting season using yam vines, according to Dr Norbert Maroya, Coordinator for the project—Yam Improvement for Incomes and Food Security in West Africa (YIIFSWA).

Chief Ogbe who visited the yam aeroponic facility to observe the production of seed yams noted that the establishment of aeroponic systems across the country would rev up the production of seed yams and could quadruple the production of the tuber crop.

“One of the major problems facing yam growers is the issue of seedlings… Things (technologies) like this can quadruple the production of yams,” he said.

The Director General of IITA said the institute would support the efforts of the Nigerian government towards ensuring that the country is food secure.

According to Sanginga, the goal of the Institute is to work with governments in the context of their national agriculture strategies to eradicate hunger and poverty and create wealth.



  1. Much as Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State tries to explain the rationale behind the bill to check the activities of preachers, it
    would appear the controversy generated by it will continue to linger for a longtime to come.

    For, there are grey areas in that executive bill that raise suspicion on the capacity of
    its implementers when passed into law, to be fair to all the religions.

    Titled “A bill for a law to substitute the Kaduna state Religious Preaching law 1984”, it seeks among others,
    the establishment of two committees, one from
    the Jama’atu Nasir Islam (JNI) for Moslems and the other from the Christian Association of
    Nigeria (CAN) for Christians. It also proposes
    the setting up of an inter-faith ministerial committee to exercise supervisory control over the JNI and CAN committee.

    Both the JNI and CAN committees are to issue licences to preachers as approved by the
    inter-faith ministerial committee and renewable after
    one year. Other key aspects of the bill relate to restricting the playing of cassettes, CDs, flash drive or any other communication gadgets containing religious recordings from accredited preachers
    to one’s house, inside the church, Mosque, or any other designated place of worship.

    It also makes it an offence for any person to preach without licence, play a religious cassette or use a
    louder speaker for religious purposes after 8pm in public places.
    An offender shall on conviction be liable to a term of imprisonment
    not exceeding two years or a fine of N200, 000 or both.

    The Catholic Bishop of Kaduna, Most Rev. Dr. Matthew Man-OSO Ndagoso, is of the opinion that the bill is unnecessary as our laws
    can handle issues it seeks to tackle.

    For the chairman of the JNI in the state, Alhaji Ja’faru Makafi,
    the bill is nothing new as preaching activities have had a long history
    of regulation in the state. He said it was for this reason that the
    regime of Ahmed Makafi had to drop similar idea when he was reminded that there were existing laws regulating

    Thus, the bill appears an avoidable duplication of existing laws guiding the practice of religion and therefore patently unnecessary.

    Apart from this, there are aspects of it that are largely vague and suspicions are that in their implementation, the Kaduna State government may likely come out
    in its true colours.

    The first has to do with the setting up of the two committees for JNI
    and CAN that are to be supervised by an inter-faith ministerial
    committee. The bill should have gone further to specify the composition of the inter-faith committee.
    This is especially so because given the very sensitive nature of religion on these shores, there is every reason to expect
    some friction when it comes to the composition and chairmanship of the committee.
    The direction it tilts will be a mirror to what may follow thereafter.

    There will be friction over the propriety of the inter-faith committee to
    determine which preachers to issue licences and which of them should not
    be accredited to propagate their faith. Such issues are very hard to
    regulate. Moreover, the criteria for the issuance of such licences have not been spelt out.
    Is it going to be based on large followership, popularity, record or rigorous religious training?
    Or is it going to be biased in favour of well
    established faith organizations? What future is there for the
    budding ones?

    And where is it written that these criteria are all there is
    for purposeful and effective evangelical work? It would seem the
    inter-faith committee is ab initio handicapped in the assignment the bill seeks to carve out
    for it. It will also amount to serious intrusion into the activities of the two
    religions by the government. There must be a point beyond which
    the government cannot intrude in religious affairs. Setting up an inter-faith committee to regulate what Christians and Moslems do would amount to
    an action taken too far.

    There are also serious issues with the proposed trial of preachers without licences in the sharia
    and customary courts. The controversy that will arise from this may
    make nonsense of anything to be achieved by that piece of legislation.

    If at all, preaching should be regulated in the
    manner being proposed in the bill, it ought to be left for the two religious bodies.
    But it is not all religious sects that belong
    to CAN and JNI. And that further constrains the attempt to regulate.
    You can neither regulate nor issue licences to faith based organizations
    that fall outside the ambit of these two religious bodies.

    But then, there is the more fundamental flaw in the reasoning that the cause of religion is better served
    when preachers are armed with a licence from the
    government. Its corollary is that issuing licences to preachers constitutes both the necessary and sufficient conditions for peaceful co-existence among members of
    the two dominant religious groups. There are no facts to
    support this thinking.

    Moreover, some of the preachers who command large following today and have performed well in their
    missionary work are neither known to have undergone formal training in their missionary work nor certified by such
    bodies as JNI or CAN before they commenced preaching.
    So the contention by El -Rufai that the bill “seeks to ensure that those that preach religion are qualified, trained and certified by their peers to do so” cannot be stretched too far.

    In fact, if such regulation had been in force, many of
    the religious denominations that abound today would not
    have been allowed to spring up. That is the simple fact and that is why the feeling
    is strong that the bill is meant to limit religious freedom.

    There are also issues with limiting the playing of cassettes,
    CDs and flash drive to one’s homes and inside
    the churches and mosques. The inevitable impression is that
    much of the religious disharmonies we have had in that state
    derive in the main, from unrestrained spreading of religious messages through these medium.
    This cannot be supported by the genesis of the various religion-induced riots that had
    in the past, led to the destruction of lives and property of
    inestimable value not only in that state but other states in the north.
    It cannot also be achieved by making it an offence for any
    person to preach without licence or limiting the
    use of loud speakers for religious purposes in public places after 8pm.

    Such regulation will no doubt, come into conflict with the mode of evangelization of most Christian dominations.
    The issue is not as much with the playing of religious cassettes or spreading religious messages after a certain period of time.
    It has not got much to do with what preachers do during their public outings.

    We need to look beyond these if we really seek the right handle
    to the cycle of religious violence that has been the sad lot of some states in the north.
    The Maitatsine riots of the 80’s; the series of religious violence of the past and the Boko Haram insurgency have little to do with some of the issues the bill seeks to
    regulate. Neither is the bill designed to check
    the future emergence of weird fundamentalist ideology nor the selfish manipulation of the down-trodden by
    the elite that give rise to such riots. Such indoctrination is implanted within the four walls of these religious bodies rather than outside of it.

    El-Rufai should drop that superfluous piece of legislation and channel his energy to improving the material conditions of the
    people of that state. With improved education and material conditions of living,
    the ease with which politicians manipulate the masses for self-serving ends in the guise of religion, will wane very considerably.
    And that is the real issue.


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