The increase in the world’s population calls for an innovative approach to food production and agricultural practices. When these two critical areas of agriculture are addressed, instances of scarcity, constant food price inflation and extreme starvation would be halved.
Large-scale seed production efforts, which involve the adoption of innovative seed variety testing and the strategic management of production processes, are essential to advancing agriculture. Therefore, one of the greatest levers that can be pulled at this time to address instances of food shortages around the world is a pivot towards expansive production of high-yielding and adaptable seed varieties across all base segments. .
High yielding and adaptable seed varieties have key advantages over normal seed. They have a better quality of adaptation to the targeted pedoclimatic conditions. They are immune to disease and provide healthy, surplus crops that can meet the needs of a growing market.
When these seeds are grown on a large scale by large numbers of smallholder farmers with efficient irrigation and fertilizer systems, a nation can very easily turn into a regional or global food basket.
In Nigeria, the Federal Government and its agencies such as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) have consistently made self-sufficiency in food production one of the priority areas of policies implemented over the past decade.
One segment that has been identified as essential for the development of the country’s agricultural value chain is the wheat production segment. It has been recognized as essential for accelerating the achievement of national food security, self-sufficiency in production, and expanding state revenue channels. Indeed, the segment continues to grow in relevance owing to a huge pivot of households towards the consumption of non-traditional wheat-derived foods such as bread, semolina, pasta and pastries.
The goal of transforming the nation into a food basket would not be achieved without the concerted efforts of stakeholders. These efforts are needed to address food supply gaps by initiating and funding tailored food development programs and ensuring appropriate engagement along the food value chain to support the population and relieve the state, in particular in this most suffocating time.
The yield of the wheat crop is generally limited by high temperatures. Humidity levels in tropical regions can attract pests and diseases.
Specifically, the pursuit of self-sufficiency in local wheat production should take into account the climatic and soil conditions of the region to develop adaptable seed varieties with high yield and adapted to the ecosystem.
Crown Flour Mill Limited (CFM), the wheat milling company and a subsidiary of Olam Nigeria, is investing in a local wheat production development initiative aimed at tackling the factors that have hampered the growth of wheat cultivation. wheat in the country.
The initiative entitled “Seeds for the Future” is implemented in partnership with the Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI) and is structured to use the extensive capacities of local researchers and the network of smallholder women farmers in the unions. cooperatives to achieve its goals.
Through this collaborative framework, CFM and LCRI set up a wheat trial project in Hadejia, Jigawa State, northwestern Nigeria. The main goals and objectives of the research project are to disseminate high yielding and adaptable seed varieties for smallholder farmers.
The seed genotypes used in the research work were introduced by the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) alongside the best national controls. Sowing began on November 17, 2021.
CFM takes practical and achievable steps to adopt an effective management system that uses the valuable network of community farmers’ associations to improve local production. Helping the country scale up the production of adaptable seed varieties (the best bet) that suit the local topography is essential for the growth of the local culture
During the second edition of the Olam Green Land webinar series, held quarterly to boost the growth of the wheat value chain, Dr. Amadou Tiadane Sall, a durum wheat expert from the Senegalese Agricultural Research Institute, shared some information about growing wheat in Senegal. . According to him, in 2017, there was no wheat production in Senegal, but thanks to the adoption of a community-based peer-to-peer seed production methodology, such as CFM and LCRI adopted under the project. Seeds for the Future, more than 2,000 smallholder wheat farmers are now successfully producing wheat in this West African country with similar climatic conditions to Nigeria.
Like Nigeria, Senegal is a major consumer of wheat-derived foods. Between the years 2015 and 2020, the country’s wheat imports increased from 573,435 tons to 900,000 tons. When the population size of the West African state, which is just over 16 million, is compared to the population size of 200 million in Nigeria, which imports about 5 million tonnes of wheat per year, the 900,000 tonnes imported into the small country can be said to be enormous.
To address the deteriorating wheat import situation in Senegal, scientists from the Institut Sénégalais de Recherches Agricoles (ISRA), the equivalent of LCRI, have teamed up with ICARDA, SLU and CNRADA to test heat tolerant (adaptable) seeds of high yielding varieties. Tests were carried out for 3 years on 2 sites. Three durum wheats and 3 bread wheats have been released while researchers have established a good pipeline to continue breeding and producing the next best varieties.
Gaps that prevent a high quality seed system from transferring to germplasm have been addressed. Small-scale wheat farmers were trained on how to grow the “new” crop varieties developed for the country’s soil and climatic conditions. The critical element is the strategic adoption of a hybrid seed production system that incorporates the element of participatory peer-to-peer tactics that engage women’s agricultural cooperatives.
The participatory peer-to-peer approach is modeled to reach women farmers directly in the villages as most women farmers cannot travel to the main towns to purchase seeds. It targets women who usually have a large network including agricultural cooperatives that operate beyond the boundaries of their village. This approach is based on the fact that when women are economically and socially empowered, they become a powerful force for change for the whole community.
The remarkable recovery of the wheat production sector in Senegal opens the door to opportunities to bridge the current gaps between local wheat production and consumption gaps in Nigeria.
It is estimated that 10 cooperative unions of smallholder wheat producers composed of at least 10 women each would be engaged in a cycle of seed testing, multiplication and marketing. Testing for the best seed varieties adapted to local climatic conditions has begun. Each women’s cooperative union will receive one ton of certified seed to grow. The seed would further be multiplied according to a well-guided cycle to ensure regular multiplication in village enterprises or women’s associations.
It is estimated that the Seeds for the Future project will engage at least 10,000 farmers per year as seed multipliers who will cultivate around 100,000 ha of land with the high yielding seed varieties by 2030. The project is expected to generate around 200 000 tons of seeds. for multiplication and commercialization which, according to Ashish Pande, Managing Director of CFM, will generate income and yields that will have a direct impact on the lives of the farmers and cooperatives involved in the project.