The Yam Improvement for Income and Food Security in West Africa (YIIFSWA-II) project, phase two, held a virtual Annual Review and Planning Meeting (ARPM) with partners and stakeholders to review the previous year’s activities and plan for the last implementation year of the project from the 23rd to the 26th of February 2021.
At the program’s onset, it was announced that Dr. Lawrence Kent would be replacing Dr. Lauren Good as the Senior Program Officer in charge of the project at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. They were both present at the meeting. Lauren Good informed the group that he will be overseeing a new project in collaboration with the Rockefeller foundation called Program for Africa’s Seed Systems (PASS). This project will be implemented by Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
In his introductory speech, the New Senior program officer, Lawrence Kent, stated that “the all-encompassing objective of the Foundation is to see projects like YIIFSWA-II and other seed projects provide access to much-needed inputs such as quality seed yam.”
Furthermore, in promoting the development of a sustainable formal seed system to distribute improved varieties, he said, “We want smallholder farmers to have access to quality planting material of improved varieties. When improved varieties come out of the breeding program, we want to see them available to farmers. However, it should not be free. It must be economically sustainable. That way, farmers do not have access to seeds just once but always because they are willing to pay for them. The payment intensifies the efforts of companies and entrepreneurs to produce and sell planting material regularly.”
The ARPM was officially opened by Prof. Michael Abberton, Director Research for Development, West-Africa, IITA, who welcomed the participants to the virtual meeting and stated the need to replicate the YIIFSWA-II initiative in other West African countries saying, “due to the current developments and achievement of the YIIFSWA-II project, there is a need to push the project’s approach to other West African countries.”
The review of project activities was conducted in thematic plenary sessions where all participants discussed the achievements and lessons learned from the implementation of activities in 2020, including:
- The project’s first exchange visit to Ghana and Nigeria, respectively, by the project management Team, seed company representatives, and regulators to foster learning from shared experiences.
- Production of the first commercial crop for certified seed production by the seed companies.
- Marketing challenges in Ghana and the need to release both local popular and improved varieties.
- Production challenges, especially the survival of vine cuttings in the nursery and field stage.
- More IITA boots on the ground to strengthen capacities in seed production, especially IITA GoSeed for the sustainable supply of Early Generation Seed (EGS)/ planting materials of improved yam varieties.
This will be the last year of implementation of the YIIFSWA-II initiative. IITA will focus its efforts on strengthening the production capacities of the seed companies in seed production.