Nigerian public extension agencies sign MoU with IITA Cassava Weed Management Project

Four state-based public extension agencies in Nigeria have signed separate memorandum of understandings with the Cassava Weed Management Project—a project that is being managed by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA-CWMP). The MoUs unite all the key partners in the battle against weeds in cassava farming systems. A similar MoU had been signed with the Standards Organization of Nigeria.
The public extension agencies involved in the signing of the MoU are: Abia State Agricultural Development Program (Abia ADP), Benue Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (BNARDA), Ogun State Agricultural Development Program (OGADEP), and Oyo State Agricultural Development Program (OYSADEP).   The signing of the MoUs is part of preliminary extension activities aimed at effective and efficient technology and knowledge transfer.
“The MoUs formally bring on board the extension agencies that are critical stakeholders to the project,” says Dr Alfred Dixon, Project Leader for the IITA Cassava Weed Management Project, in Ibadan today.
Signing separately on behalf of the four extension agencies were the Program Managers of Abia ADP, Sir Enyinnaya Elekwachi; BNARDA, James Ker; OGADEP, Ibikunle Onasanya; and OYSADEP, Victor Atilola.
“We are glad to be involved in this project and we will do our best to ensure that it succeeds,” said Mr Atilola.
For Sir Elekwachi the signing opens a new window of collaboration. “With this arrangement, our results will readily get to farmers and create impact,” he said.
Yet for Mr Ker, the MoU is about partnership for impact.
“No one institution can do everything. We need to work together to serve the interest of the people,” Mr Ker added.
Under the MoU, the extension agencies in collaboration with IITA and implementing partner institutions across the states will conduct trainings on improved weed management practices in cassava farming systems, conduct method and results demonstrations and establish link between weed management research team and farmers and other stakeholders (community leaders, opinion leaders.
They will further dsseminate findings on improved weed management practices to farmers and other stakeholders, participate in surveys, data collection, and field days as may be required from time to time, and participate in studies that shall provide better understanding of constraints and available knowledge on weed management and,
They will also participate in IITA Cassava Weed Management Project’s annual work review and planning meetings.
Godwin Atser, Project’s Communication & Knowledge Exchange Expert, said the signing of the MoUs was a step in the right direction. “Extension agencies are critical partners in this project and we are happy all of them are excited to bring their expertise to the project so that we create impact at the farm level,” Atser said.
The MoUs were facilitated by the IITA-CWMP team and the IITA Project Administration Office.Established in the early 19 80s, the extension agencies also known as Agricultural Development Programs (ADPs) seek to among others: promote increased agricultural production; raise the income and standard of living of farmers; focus on agricultural potentials in effectively utilizing intensive programs of on-farm adaptive research; develop effective unified training and visit agricultural extension system; establish and operate a workable input procurement and distribution system capable of serving farmers at the right time, and provide rural infrastructure for sustainable development.


Soybean rust blights crop’s promising future in Africa, review study shows

The demand for soybean in Africa has been increasing steadily driven by the growing feed industry for poultry and aquaculture as well as for home consumption in the form of processed milk, baked beans, and for blending with maize and wheat flour. This in turn has spurred an increase in soybean production to respond to the growing demand―the crop’s production in sub-Saharan Africa has doubled over the last fifteen years.
However, the demand for soybean in Africa still outweighs the supply and hence a lot of soybean and soybean products are imported mostly from India, Argentina, and Brazil. In 2011, soybean imports were estimated at nearly 1.6 million tons, valued at US$1.22 billion with South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya being the top importers. 
The production of soybean in the continent is low and is greatly threatened by several biotic and abiotic stresses such as declining soil fertility, diseases, insect pests, and weeds. Among the diseases, Soybean rust disease, caused by the fungus Phakopsora pachyrhizi, is one of the major threats to soybean production in Africa due to its rapid spread. The fungus’ spores are easily blown by the wind, spreading over long distances.
According to a review paper by Harun Murithi, a plant pathologist at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) soybean rust is known to cause massive yield losses of between 10 and 90%. The paper “Soybean production in eastern and southern Africa and threat of yield loss due to soybean rust caused by Phakopsora pachyrhizi” was published recently in Plant Pathology. (
“With its current rapid spread, soybean rust is an important disease that cannot be ignored,” Harun says. “Plants affected by the disease have leaves that have tan to dark brown, or reddish brown lesions. Soybean rust reduces yields mainly by decreasing the photosynthetic activity of the infected leaves.
The disease was first confirmed in Uganda on experimental plots and thereafter on farmers’ fields throughout the country in 1996 and all the soybean grown in the country was found to be susceptible. In 1998, the disease was reported in the major soybean growing regions in Kenya, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. Other countries where the disease has been detected include Nigeria in 1999, Mozambique in 2000, South Africa and Cameroon in 2001, Ghana and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in Central Africa in 2007, and Tanzania and Malawi in 2014.
The best method to control the disease is through the use of resistant soybean varieties. However, this has been difficult due to the presence of different populations of the fungus across the globe and at the country level. Nevertheless, a lot of research is ongoing in East and Southern Africa to understand the soybean pathogen. In Zimbabwe, resistant varieties have been developed and in other countries tolerant varieties have been identified and deployed.
“In the breeding program at IITA, soybean rust-resistant lines have been tested and released across Africa. We also monitor annually the spread of soybean rust in major soybean growing areas in the region and collect spore samples for analysis. We are also evaluating the effectiveness of simple methods to monitor the spore spread such as small-scale monitoring plots (sentinel plots) and use of spore traps in Tanzania and Zambia. These methods will be optimized for adaptation to the conditions in the region to contribute to controlling soybean rust,” Harun adds.
According to the study, due to the huge potential of soybean to improve the diet and the incomes and livelihoods of smallholder farmers in eastern and southern Africa, efforts to protect the crop from abiotic and biotic stresses and especially soybean rust disease, should be enhanced to ensure sustainable increase in the crop’s production.