Nigerian Yam Farmers Get New Market Opportunities

How farmers can get healthier, bigger yams this season

* New platform for African farmers to sell produce worldwide unveiled

Alexander Davis | ConsumerConnect

As several yam farmers have started planting, scores of farmers apparently are yet to embrace new methods of growing yam vine in smaller spaces for bigger harvest instead of the manual way of cultivating the tubers or millicent in larger farms in Nigeria.

Incidentally, science has adopted the vine system, which enables farmers to plant yam stems, for rapid production of high-quality yam that could earn farmers better income. Daily Trust reports that Mrs. Scholarstica Amua, Chairman of Yam Farmers Association, in Benue State, said yam seed production had evolved technologically such that there was no longer a need for the use of seedlings but the planting of yam vine (stems).

“We are yet to teach farmers the new method in Benue,” she said, but that arrangements are underway to sensitise them and other stakeholders on the need to embrace the new system for improved income as well as other benefits.

Likewise, Teryima Iorlamen, a Seed Systems Principal Investigator at the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi (FUAM), is said to have stressed that science is gradually moving farmers to soon start planting yam stems like they do in cultivating sweet potatoes.

In dissecting best agronomy practices which can help farmers grow healthy and bigger yams for consumption as well as increased income, Iorlamen harped on proper land preparation and need for farmers to wait until the rains stabilised before planting.

“As a root crop, the farmer needs to prepare the land very well to enable root penetration.

“Since yam is a root crop, at a point, it wouldn’t want much water, and that’s why timing is very important.

“We insist that the soil should be the one that is well-drained so that at a particular point, the plant would be looking for more water, thereby, expanding and it would also cause the elongation of the roots and tubers,” FUAM’s Seed Systems Principal Investigator said.

According to him, the soil also needs to be softened to aid the penetration for the crop. He further emphasised that “some people plant their yam during the dry season, which is between January and March.

“However, the farmer who is planting at such period should be conscious of the Sun. Because the temperature would be high, one of the recommended agronomy activities is that the farmer must mulch, meaning that he gets material and puts on-top of the heaps and also put sand so as to reduce the level of intensity of the sun on the yam heap.

“That should be done properly, otherwise, it would lead to the decay of the yam seedlings.

“Another reason why people plant at this time is because they feel it will encourage decay of yam material so that once rain stabilises, it would continue growth and development.”

Iorlamen nevertheless advised farmers to plant as soon as the rain stabilises, stressing that, “sometimes, even when the first rain comes, the heat in the soil is much but when the rain stabilises, the temperature is favourable and the moisture content is enough for the crop to germinate.”

The seed specialist noted further that the more yam put into the soil, the bigger the tuber.

“The more you give to the soil, the more you receive as far as yam is concerned. So we encourage those going into tuber production, as some are going into seedlings while others are interested in the tuber, to plant bigger sizes.

“But where the farmer only wants to multiply seeds or a particular variety, there would be no need for bigger tubers but go into what we call, yam millicent.

“Millicent is a technology that if you have tuber of yam that you are interested in multiplying; you slice it into smaller pieces and then prepare it and plant it. “When you slice a yam, agronomically, we believe you are wounding that yam so you need to protect it with something like wood-ash to allow it clot which prevents the seed from micro-organism.

“There are some other treatment methods too which can be used to treat the sliced yams.”

On her part, the chairman of yam farmers, Amua, said that there were two categories of yam farmers in Benue State: those who plant their yam seeds in September and those who do so in April when the soil is soft enough.

Amua said for convenience, she planted her seeds in September 2019, because leaving them in her warehouse meant wastage as they may likely get rotten before the commencement of rains.

She, however, said many other farmers prepared their heaps in September, to have time for other activities, but plant their crop in March, adding that each of the two seasons would achieve result only if best agronomy practices were taken into consideration, such as mulching.

Comrade Aondongu Saaku, Chairman of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Benue State Chapter, also stressed the need for those who plant in September of the year to heavily mulch their heaps so that when the rain begins, the crop would germinate faster and not get rotten under intense heat.

Saaku said any of the two seasons of planting yam often yield the same result because the plants usually sprout at the same time, regardless of whether the farmer planted in September or April.

He pointed out that, “The crop grows at the same pace. It is only the methods that are different. We advise farmers to mulch their heaps even when they plant in April.”

The AFAN chairman also stressed the need for farmers to spray their farms at the right time, either at the planting in September or in April when the first rain starts and the grasses begin to sprout. He added that preparation of land should begin as from October for those who make their heaps in December and wait until the rains before planting and that farmers should grow seeds for themselves instead of travelling far to get them.

“We get yam seeds from our farmers mostly. The farmers multiply the seeds themselves or get the variety they want from other farmers or markets. We have many varieties of yam in Benue. Researchers are trying on millicent, but that is not widespread for now,” he submitted.

Meanwhile, African farmers now have a platform to sell produce directly to buyers worldwide.

Selina Wamucii, the platform that helps businesses from anywhere in the world to buy and import food and other agricultural produce from any African country, has announced that it is opening up its platform to organised farmers groups and cooperatives to sell or export directly to markets worldwide.

Selina Wamucii is a platform that helps businesses from anywhere in the world to easily source, buy or import food & agricultural produce from any African country with ease.

It simplifies sourcing, payments, and logistics while guaranteeing trust for buyers and producers.

John Oroko, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Selina Wamucii, in a statement, said: “Selina Wamucii now welcomes farmer groups, associations, processors and cooperatives based in any African country to sign up by visiting and start selling their produce directly to a large selection of interested buyers from around the world who are already using our platform.”

Farmers can sell directly on the Selina Wamucii platform as registered, organised groups.

The platform enables farmers to control the entire process from growing, harvesting to supplying directly to local markets right in their countries, within Africa (intra-Africa) or even export directly by themselves to any market worldwide.

Among the requirements for farmers to sign up is that the farmers need to be organised in groups of active members with the group having a clear leadership structure in place.

“At Selina Wamucii, we believe all farmers and other producers should be seamlessly connected to markets anywhere in the world regardless of geographical limitations, size of farm, facilities or resources.

“That’s why we’re building the first truly Pan-African platform for food and agricultural produce.

“The platform uses technologies, including artificial intelligence, data, and algorithms to streamline the extremely fragmented agricultural supply chains across entire Africa,” CEO Oroko stated.

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