Dr Issoufou Abdourrahman Kolo, the Regional Coordinator of the Africa Agriculture Technology Foundation (AATF), in the interview speaks on the progress level of Pod Borer Resistant (PBR) Cowpea commercialisation in Nigeria. He also talked on the ecomomic importance of the new Cowpea variety.
What is happening now on PBR Cowpea?
You know the PBR Cowpea has been granted environmental release which means that the Nigeria Biosafety Agency has sat down and looked at the cowpea and confirmed that it is safe for human consumption and animal consumption, and also poses no danger to the environment.
But in Nigeria, for a variety to be released, the variety has to go to what is called National Variety Performance Trials, and there is a National Varietal Release Committee. So we are preparing for the National Variety Performance Trials, to collate the data and present the date to the National Varietal Release Committee, and say this is how PBR Cowpea performed in farmers field and in different agro ecology in Nigeria.
So when they examine the data, they will also approve the cowpea for release to farmers, this is the stage we are, we have passed the first stage, then we are in the second and final stage.
What do we expect from this new variety of cowpea?
Wherever Maruca Vitrata is a very big problem, what we expect is to get a tremendous yield. To boost cowpea production. People don’t know what is going on in agriculture market, we are not talking about small money, we are talking about hundreds of million of Naira per year saved in this country and injected into the economy at the farmers level. I was afraid to say billions of Naira, but the reality is that it is billions of Naira if you can increase cowpea production.
Wherever Maruca is a problem, the minimum yield you can increase is 50 per cent in that area with the new cowpea. So it is not academic business, it is economic problem that we are facing, and we want to solve it, it is serious economic problem. So people think research is just for academics, no, research is linked to basic economic constraint in the society is facing, if a country cannot link its agricultural research to the basic problems the society is facing, then there is no agricultural research, that is purely academic, then it is useless for the society, but this one is not academic, it is a serious economic and food challenge situation.
Nigeria is largest importer of cowpea in the subregion, many people don’t know, they think Nigeria doesn’t import food from the surrounding countries, but Nigeria does import a lot of food to surrounding countries, it exports, but it also imports. Nigeria is the biggest market for cowpea for neighboring countries.
When is the National Variety Performance Trials starting, and in how many locations?
The trial would be held in all agro ecology zones in Nigeria, from the Sahel to the humid forest to see how the cowpea would perform, and the trial would be in more than 12 locations this season. We will also go on farmers field to test the cowpea and test it with real farmers, and we will be organizing field day for everybody to see how the cowpea grows.
Is there any training for the farmers for this new variety?
There is a program for training not only the farmers, but the seed companies, because Nigeria has some seed companies who produce cowpea seeds, so we have a program for training them on how to handle the the cowpea and produce high quality seeds for farmers. We are also going to train extension workers on PBR Cowpea and biotechnology.