By Tabitha Oeri

Set to improve large scale production of cowpea by at least 20-50%, the Pod Borer Resistant (PBR) Cowpea has officially been released for use in Nigeria.

The PBR Cowpea- first released in Nigeria in 2019 as the SAMPEA 20-T variety- is resistant to the crop pest Maruca vitrata which has highly infested most cowpea producing areas in the country.

The product, developed through collaboration between scientists at the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and other international partners under the coordination of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), will contribute to addressing the national cowpea demand shortage of about 500,000 tonnes.

Speaking during the virtual pre-launch of the PBR Cowpea, Dr Denis Kyetere, the Executive Director of AATF said the milestone was historic for African farmers and Nigeria’s food security being that cowpea is a staple crop in the country and a source of protein for over 200 million people.

Under the theme dubbed: Leveraging agricultural technology to address farming challenges in Africa, Dr Kyetere pointed out key interventions by AATF in tackling farming challenges in Africa including the transgenic PBR cowpea variety that will not only improve yields but will also reduce use of pesticides.

“Adapting to the use of the SAMPEA 20-T variety will reduce the use of pesticides from the usual 8 times to 2 times per cropping season. It will in turn improve the health of farmers in Africa,” he stated.

In his last remarks as the Executive Director of AATF before retiring, the renowned agriculturalist Dr Kyetere encouraged Africa to embrace use of agricultural technologies to improve crop productivity in Africa.

“African farmers continue to face several farming challenges ranging from the impact of climate change, pest and disease infestation, poor soil fertility, among others that have greatly reduced agricultural productivity at farm levels.”

“At AATF, we believe that use of appropriate technology can improve agricultural productivity in Africa. Whereas Africa has recorded some improvements over the years in as far as our agriculture is concerned, there remain a number of challenges which drive down productivity on the continent. While other continents are witnessing tremendous yield result per hectare, the case in Africa is still lagging around creating a conducive policy and regulatory environment to allow innovation to thrive,” he said.

Dr. Kyetere pointed out that technological advancement has led to enhanced productivity of key staple crops including maize, rice, cowpeas, and cassava, proving that with technology use, there is a significant difference in the crop performance and farmer’s gains.

While encouraging organizations to work together and create enabling environments towards achieving great success in Africa’s agricultural sector, he urged governments to put in place policies and matching regulations to enable growth in the agricultural sector in Africa.