Farmers in 13 states of Nigeria will receive improved seeds of sorghum, pearl millet, cowpea and rice as part of an initiative to cushion the pandemic's impact on food systems. A host of agricultural research institutes and programmes, led by ICRISAT, and the Nigerian government recently launched the seed support initiative.
Flagging-off the initiative on 29 May in Kano, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Nigeria, said, "The pandemic may very likely precipitate a food crises by disrupting our food production systems, thereby posing a great threat to farmers' livelihoods as well as national food and nutritional security."
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) estimates that COVID-19 pandemic risks food insecurity and nutrition of 50 million people between June and August 2020. The pandemic adds to other threats including climate change and recurrent drought, Fall armyworm (FAW) and locust infestations in West Africa.
"In Nigeria, it becomes more important to provide support to production systems across value chains towards mitigating the impact of this pandemic," the minister added.
The states were selected based on the importance of sorghum and millet as food crops and access of partners to needy smallholder farmers
Nigeria had initiated an early coordinated response to minimize impact, Minister Nanono said. He explained that Joint Technical Task Teams (JTTT) at national and state levels developed strategies to facilitate free movement of food and agricultural inputs exempted from lockdown.
"The government is also planning ahead with research institutions to produce breeder and foundation seeds for production of high yielding seeds for 2020 wet and dry season as well as 2021 rainy season," the minister said.
Dr Hakeem Ajeigbe, Country Representative of the International research institute for the semi-arids tropics (ICRISAT) for Nigeria, said, "The seeds are being provided as a palliative to reduce the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on smallholder farming households and agricultural activities in Nigeria."
Nigeria's Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) and Centre for Dryland Agriculture at the Bayero University Kano (CDA-BUK) joined hands with ICRISAT and Syngenta Foundation for the initiative, which draws support from the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) of the African Development Bank, Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancement for Sorghum and Millets (HOPE II), Accelerated Varietal Improvement and Seed Delivery of Legumes and Cereals in Africa (AVISA) and Agricultural Transformation Agenda Support Program (ATASP-1) projects.
To mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and contribute to building sustainable food systems and food security, ICRISAT developed a three-phase response plan with Recovery and Coping Phases, Adaptive Phase and Transformative Phase in West and Central Africa.
Seed support initiatives are a part of the coping and recovery phase of ICRISAT's interventions, which prioritizes increasing agricultural production through adequate supply of targeted breeder seed to ensure continued support in production of quality certified seed in partnership with governments and other partners in the region.