NASC, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, others launch IMAGE to provide farmers quality seeds
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Seed-fund

As the nation yearns to boost food security, availability, and affordability, the National Agricultural Seeds Council, NASC, in collaboration with Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation, and Content Global Development, Tuesday, launched Institutionalizing Monitoring of Crop Variety Adoption Using Genotyping program, IMAGE, to provide farmers quality and original seeds for cultivation.

The launch was made by the Director-General, NASC, Philip Ojo,  at the Physical Launch and Constitution of the National Executive Steering Committee of the IMAGE project in Nigeria.

Ojo in his remarks said the launch of IMAGE marks the end of a process that started in December 2019 in Nairobi, Kenya, which was the project proposal formulation phase.

Other partners for IMAGE include International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre, Excellence in Breeding Platform, International Food Policy Research Institute, and others.

Nigeria under the five-year project selected four staple seeds on rice, maize, cowpea, and cassava, which farmers are to experience increased yield soon.

He said: “Today equally marks the beginning of a new era in the adoption of improved variety monitoring and reporting, the beginning of the process that will drive us through the much-needed shift from our traditional and largely inaccurate methodology for measuring farmer adoption of improved variety and how varieties turnover through time.

“Over time, studies of improved seed adoption in Nigeria are almost based on household surveys and are premised on the assumption that a farmer can accurately self-report their use of improved seed varieties.

“However, many studies have shown that farmers’ report of seed varieties planted, or whether the seed is improved or local are sometimes inconsistent with the DNA fingerprinting results of these varieties.

“You would agree with me, that misidentification of seed varieties or type could have several implications for both adoption of improved technology, for planting, for Policy formulation for food security, and also for regulatory activities.

“The NASC is grateful to BMGF for supporting these efforts that will provide useful insights and path towards accurately understanding the adoption pattern and use of the various seeds of improved variety. These, we believe will help in no small measure towards accurate and targeted policy formulation regarding the utilization of seeds in Nigeria.

“It is a five-year program and it has started. This program is very important because it is important for farmers to know which variety if it is Faro 44 let it be Faro 44, and now we are using genotyping and let us be sure of those varieties so that at the end of the day we will know exactly the variety.”

He also explained that as an organ of government charged with the responsibility of regulating the Nigerian seed space, Council pledges to support the process as much as possible.

“I also wish to call on everyone in this room, as you have been carefully selected to participate in this process to support this drive to develop a system to effectively and accurately track farmers’ adoption of improved varieties and how varieties turn over through time using DNA fingerprinting.

“We expect that the IMAGE project will provide insights and evidence for seed sector actors to enhance government agency capacity, improve stakeholders’ coordination, and lead to better investment and resource allocation decisions for varietal development and commercialization in Nigeria”, he said.

Also, other stakeholders in their remarks expressed support of the project and said will work to ensure farmers get the best of seeds and yield to boost food security.

Meanwhile, presenting IMAGE, Senior Agric Officer, Office of the DG, NASC, Onwuka Charles Jnr, explained about IMAGE in Nigeria, and said that a system whereby there is a reference library, the country will have a genetic marker of these materials when a farmer says this is Faro 44 and can cross-match the genetic components of these materials with what is in the reference library to assert the facts.

“And I am sure that even for rice, beans, cassava, cowpea, and some other varieties, and there are a lot of varieties which have been wrongly reported every day.

“The focus crops for the project, here in Nigeria we are looking at four crops, maize, rice, cassava, and cowpea. Just like we earlier said, the program is being implemented simultaneously in two other countries; Ethiopia and Tanzania. For utopia, maize, wheat, cowpea, and teff, and for Tanzania, we have maize, cassava, cowpea, and rice.

“These are some of the matches we created, for the image program, these are some of the activities, construct and maintain their reference library. So we need to construct their reference library for these materials, for maize, cowpea, cassava, and rice.

“We are looking at conducting two surveys that are within the available resources of the project, we would conduct two surveys for each of these crops. We have our materials for cassava and cowpea and that’s why we would be doing only one round of survey for those materials.

He further stated that “Apart from constructing the reference library we need to also define the scope of data collection and investigation, develop sampling strategies, collect data, extract DNA, manage overall logistics and coordination, sample management, sample collection, tracking transportation, and processing, genotyping samples, data analysis, data management, reporting of results and we would also look at the policy aspect of it as well.

“NASC is leading for Nigeria, and they would be leading the implementation of these efforts with other national partners. These are some of the national partners we identified why we were in Nairobi at the time: IATE, NACRAB, MBS, other partners include: ARCN, research institutes, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, the universities, extension bodies, African Rice, the commodity association, and the Agro-based institutes as well.”

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