In order to secure food sufficiency in the next coming season due to the challenging period of coronavirus pandemic, researchers have advised yam seed producers and farmers to work in shifts to ensure continuity even during the pandemic.
The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) said this in a report published June 8, 2020.
The IITA is a non- profit institute that generates agricultural innovations to meet Africa’s most pressing challenges of hunger, malnutrition, poverty, and natural resource degradation.
According to IITA, Norbert Marcya, the Project leader of Yam Improvement for Incomes and Food Security in West Africa (YIIFSWA), an initiative of IITA, said this in a short interview when asked about yam farming in Nigeria and Ghana where the project currently operates.
“We advised our partners to work in shifts- always have at least one person who can stay on-site for two–three days and take care of the plants in aeroponics, hydroponics and nurseries,” Mr Marcya said.
“If the yam plants in screen houses are not regularly watered, they will die,” Marcya added.
Coronavirus pandemic is affecting the global economy including Nigeria’s agricultural sector.
Since the confirmation of its first case in February, Nigeria has recorded about 12,600 confirmed cases with over 350 deaths.
In order to curtail the spread, government is said to be careful in opening up of non-essential businesses and offices as people are advised to keep to the given health directives from NCDC such as staying at home, washing of hands frequently with soap and running water, physical distancing and wearing of a face mask in public places.
However, yams are primary agricultural commodities and a major staple food in Nigeria and West Africa as whole with Nigeria being ranked as the largest producer in the world; accounting about 60 per cent of the global production of the products according to Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
According to the IITA, the worldwide annual consumption of yam is 18 million tonnes, with about 15 million tonnes consumed in West Africa.
The pandemic broke out in the planting season.
In a bid not to lose potential yield capacity and production volume, farmers are advised to go back to farm and work in shifts.
Explaining further, Mr Maroya said ‘staying at home’ measures could be dangerous to world food security and nutrition if adopted by farmers.
“If a farmer had seed yam that could cover a hectare, but due to COVID-19 stay-at-home measures, it is unable to plant immediately and waits for two months, by the time they plant the same seed, it will cover only half to quarter a hectare,” Mr Maroya said.
“Staying at home is one measure that cannot apply to farmers during the planting season. They cannot stay away from their fields because the world’s food and nutrition security depend on them. However, they must adhere to other safety measures such as frequent hand washing with soap and running water, physical distancing and wearing a face mask in public.”
On Monday, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, at the inauguration of a 200,000 capacity yam storage facility for small and medium enterprises in Benue, said President Mohammadu Buhari is satisfied with the way COVID-19 is being handled without affecting the food supply chain.
“A major concern for him has been that the COVID-19 crisis does not in any way disturb agriculture and the food supply chain,” Mr Osinbajo said.
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