The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Monday donated about 35,930 kilograms of seeds to the Borno state government as part of efforts to cushion the humanitarian crisis in the northeastern part of Nigeria.
The donation, which is perhaps the largest quantity of seeds being offered to Nigeria in recent times, is an initiative of IITA management under the leadership of Dr Nteranya Sanginga to address the humanitarian crisis in the region—a region once referred to as the bread basket of Nigeria.
Delivering the seeds to the Governor of Borno State, Dr Kenton Dashiell, IITA Deputy Director General for Partnerships for Delivery, says the donation is a gesture aimed at helping Nigeria to rebuild Borno in particular and the northeast in general.
The donated seeds include improved varieties of cowpea, soybean, maize, millet, sorghum, and rice. The seeds are adapted to the climate of the region with some being extra-early, early, and intermediate, maturing. “They are also high yielding and resistant to the major pests and diseases, and other biotic and abiotic constraints in the region,” Dr Dashiell explained, adding that another 3000 bundles of cassava planting materials will be delivered to the state once the rains stabilize.
IITA Ambassador and Former Nigeria’s President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo described the donation as the most meaningful give ever given to the people of Borno state. The IITA Ambassador pledged IITA’s commitment to support Borno state and Nigeria at large to overcome the challenging period.
“IITA and our partners including the World Food Program, the Zero Hunger Forum, and African Development Bank will continue to give priority attention to Borno state in particular and the north east in general,” Chief Obasanjo said.
Located about 850 kilometers northeast of Abuja, Borno state became the epicenter of attacks from Boko Haram—an Islamic extremist group that killed more than 20,000 since 2009, and displaced more than 2.3 million, majority of them farmers. The group has become the world’s deadliest organization according to the Global Terrorism Index in 2015.
In February 2017, the United Nations listed north-eastern Nigeria as one of the regions in the world facing hunger and devastating levels of food insecurity.
Dr Dashiell says: “The donation is being given because IITA is concerned about the plight of the people of the Northeast who, by many accounts, are very food insecure, malnourished, and need assistance to get back to normal life. We are committed to working with Federal Government and the State governments in north-eastern Nigeria to transform agriculture so that the people are food secure and earning a good living for their families. We also plan to partner with the World Food Program (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations during this 2017 growing season. It is also an opportunity for IITA as an international agricultural research-for-development institution to implement its mission to transform agriculture in Nigeria and Africa at large.”
The seeds are intended for planting by farmers of Borno State in the upcoming cropping season. The IITA seed collection is a product of joint efforts by IITA breeders and agronomists, special project managers, and scientists and the Business Incubation Platform (BIP)-GoSeed producers, and IITA Youth Agripreneurs. ICRISAT and Africa Rice also provided seeds to support this initiative which would serve as a reliable seed source.
The Governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kashim Showtime in his appreciation noted that agriculture remains the highest employer on earth and the IITA plays a pivotal role in sustaining the sector in Africa. “Words cannot adequately convey the depth of our gratitude to the IITA and to President Obasanjo who is an Ambassador of the IITA, for the choice of Borno as beneficiary of a remarkable intervention. Seeds, particularly at this time, are life saving for us in Borno State. In a typical conflict situation, majority of farmers end up eating up their seeds because they can’t plant them. These seeds will be of immediate use to our farmers in the Southern part of Borno State which has been less affected by the Boko Haram insurgency. Farmers there are still carrying out their activities as against areas like Northern Borno,” Governor Shettima said.
On the team to donate the seeds were H.E Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, and other IITA representatives including Nkeki Kamai, Coordinator, N2Africa Nigeria; Godwin Atser, Communication and Knowledge Exchange Expert; IITA Youth Agripreneur representatives from Borno State; Toyin Oke, Manager, Resource Mobilization and Protocol and External Liaison, and representatives of AfricaRice and ICRISAT.