Nigeria receives blueprint on doubling maize

By Godwin Atser

IITA-IBADAN Maize researchers have presented a blueprint on doubling maize production to the Nigerian government. The blueprint, which contained empirical facts and recommendations, proved that the oil-rich nation could double maize production and called for the strengthening of the country s seed system to tackle the food crisis confronting the world.

The recommendations should be taken seriously because if implemented and sustained, they would bring solutions to the food crisis especially as it concerns maize production, says Prof. M.A Fakorede, a maize researcher at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife.

In Nigeria, maize is among the most important crops but poor seed supply, inefficient marketing system, and low investment in research-for-development are among the factors that have limited production. Consequently, current production is about 8 million tons but the research, which involved more than 1,000 farmers raised yield per hectare to about 4.2 tons per hectare up from 1.5 tons per hectare, suggesting that national production could hit 20 million tons if the recommendations were scaled-up.

Dr. Oyewole Ajala, Team Leader and Maize Breeder at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture sought government support for the seed sector to overcome the limitation poised by poor seed supply to farmers.

Nigeria today is the only country in West Africa that has viable private seed companies and they need support and backstopping to consistently supply quality seeds to farmers, he says.

Nigeria s Minister of State for Agriculture and Water Resources, Mrs. Fidelia Njeze, applauded the research team for its efforts.

According to her, apart from ensuring food security, the research is in line with the federal government s seven-point agenda.

The Doubling Maize research project began in 2006 and was funded by Nigeria s Federal Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development while partners included scientists at the Institute of Agricultural Research & Training (IAR&T), Ibadan-based IITA, National Rice/Maize Center -National Accelerated Food Production Program, Institute for Agricultural Research, National Cereals Research Institute, the University of Ilorin and the National Agricultural Extension & Research Liaison Services (NAERLS).

The team deployed several newly-developed maize varieties including those that were drought-tolerant, low nitrogen-tolerant, Striga-tolerant, stemborer-resistant and early maturing varieties to mitigate the challenge faced by resource-poor farmers in maize production.

Other recommendations made by the researchers include:

government should maintain a buy-back policy extensive field management training of extension, seed company and staff of other agencies engaged in maize promotion scaling up of promising technologies generation of accurate data through appropriate data mining and actual generation investment in production and promotion of labour saving tools and Continued investment in postharvest research-for-development to improve market.