High-yielding, heat-tolerant wheat developed in Sudan has convinced Nigeria’s policymakers to invest more in wheat production.

Working through the wheat component of the project “Support to Agricultural Research for Development on Strategic Commodities in Africa (SARD-SC),” funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB), ICARDA is mobilizing a fast-track seed multiplication program that has already distributed 58 tons of improved seed to 1,600 Nigerian farmers, who live in the country with the world’s 7th largest population.

The improved wheat varieties deliver up to 5-6 tons per hectare on farmers’ fields using optimal agronomic management, much more than the average 1-2 tons per hectare, when farmers employ traditional varieties and agronomic practices. A functioning seed system is crucial to Nigeria’s wheat transformation, but high quality seeds alone will not bring the required change, according to Solomon Gizaw Assefa, ICARDA’s SARD-SC/Wheat coordinator.

Photo courtesy: SARD-SC/ICARDA

“We are supporting Nigerian farmers through the dissemination of proven technologies such as raised-bed irrigation, and other agronomic practices to ensure optimal growing conditions,” said Assefa. “We are also pursuing policies that foster public-private partnerships to spread new technologies and improved seed, as well minimum price guarantees for farmers and other approaches that encourage Nigerian millers to buy domestic wheat.”

SARD-SC/Wheat has had a positive impact on policy change and the enabling environment in Nigeria. In collaboration with the government's Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA), the project will contribute to raising national production to 1.5 million tons, potentially reducing Nigeria's wheat imports, which is a major concern of the government. Via the ATA, subsidized small and medium-size milling machines were provided to rural entrepreneurs, to foster local value chains. 40,000 farmers received free wheat seed, as well as subsidized fertilizer, at half the market price. Last but not least, the Federal Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development has committed to increase wheat area from 70,000 hectares to 300,000 hectares in the coming five years. The ministry estimates that only 40 percent of the 84 million hectares of arable land are currently farmed.

The SARD-SC Wheat project is active in 11 countries throughout Sub-Saharan Africa until end 2016. The African Development Bank will be extending its commitment, under the 2017-2022 Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) program. It is a major contribution to the Wheat-for-Africa (W4A) strategy, by which WHEAT brings together major stakeholders.

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