The UN Food and Agriculture
Organization (FAO) says crop losses in sub-saharan Africa amount to $200
million a year. As a result scientists at the International Institute of
Tropical Agriculture (IITA) are reminding farmers about how to improve soil and
crop harvests. From Kano, Nigeria, Voice of
America English to Africa Service’s Isiyaku Ahmed reports that IITA officials
suggest fertilization and crop rotation to increase the supply of nitrogen,
potassium and phosphorous.
IITA scientists and their partners
working in Nigeria, Benin and Togo are reinforcing those findings after
completing a six-year project called
“Balanced Nutrient Management Systems.”
The scientists identified better crop varieties and
validated crop-rotation techniques. They also devised soil fertility technology
and set up cooperative approaches with national researchers and extension
Dr. Robert Abaidoo is a soil microbiologist
at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Ibadan, Nigeria. He
says the long-term soil studies advanced their understanding of how
disadvantaged farmers in maize-producing regions can overcome declines in soil
fertility and increase farm income.
More than 130 million farmers live
in the moist savannah of coastal and central sub-Sahara Africa. Many record
annual crop losses. Abaidoo says it’s these farmers who will benefit most from
the improved techniques.
The research shows that the
solution to higher maize yields lies in the proper mix of fertilizers and
organic nutrients, manure made from plant and animal waste.
It also proves there are many
benefits from rotating maize with legumes crops like soybean and cowpea, which
are rich in nitrogen and protein.
A former IITA project leader,
Professor Dan Diels, says by working together the researchers were able to take
practical problems into account and develop simple technologies that could be
adopted by farmers.
Maize is an important food in
Africa and the main ingredient in several well-known national dishes. Examples
are tuwon masara and akamu in northern Nigeria, Koga in Cameroon, injera in
Ethiopia and ugali in Kenya. It’s also used as animal feed and as raw material
for brewing beer and for producing starch.
The FAO says over the decades,
fertilizers and other inputs to enrich the soil have been used to help improve
maize production in West and Central Africa. In response, maize yields there
have increased from three million hectares 25 years ago to three times that
As food production has increased,
so has the population, which increases demand for more food.
To learn more about this
technology, you can contact IITA headquarters in Ibadan, Oyo
state, Nigeria or call: + 234 2 241
2626 [ext 2773]