Global yam conference calls for more investments on yam R4D
IITA Director General, Dr Nteranya Sanginga addressing participants at the Global Conference on Yam in Ghana
Increasing funding for research and development on yam will help unleash the potential of the crop, improve livelihoods, create jobs and enhance food security in Africa.
Researchers, policymakers, and representatives from the private sector at the first ever global yam conference in Accra, Ghana, say that recent investments in yam research are paying off, and demonstrating the crop’s greater potential than what is being realized.
“Sustaining and enhancing funding support for yam research and development backed by political will are needed to unlock the crop’s full potential,” said the Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Dr Nteranya Sanginga.
He praised the government of Japan, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD) for supporting IITA on yam research and called on researchers to develop a vision for the crop.
Known as the ‘king of crops’ because of its contribution to incomes and food security, yam also has high cultural value especially in traditional marriages in Africa. However, the crop is under-researched due to low funding and this has limited the potential of the crop for alleviating poverty.
“If we attract more investments to advance and expand yam research globally, the anticipated benefits and impacts will be quite enormous,” says the Ghanaian Minister for Food and Agriculture, Clement Kofi Humado.
Represented by the Deputy Minister for Food and Agriculture, Ahmed Yakubu Alhassan, the minister said that there was a need to “soberly rethink through research-and-development, and invest our limited resources judiciously to ensure best results.”
The Executive Director, Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), Dr Yemi Akinbamijo noted that in spite of the contribution to food security and incomes, African crops such as yam have not commanded the attention they deserved, and have as a result remained underutilized.
“Yams are unexploited in several aspects: actual yields are lower than potential, utilization is low for instance in animal feeds, and potential for diversification of yam products among others is unexploited,” he said.
Commending IITA for its contribution to yam research and development, Dr Akinbamijo said that the key to unlocking the potential of yam lies in science and technology and empowerment of the producers, marketers, and consumers to take advantage of what research offers.
According to him, “the challenge is to mobilize the investment required to conduct research and develop the yam value chain into a profitable enterprise for small and large-scale operators alike.”
The Global Conference on Yams was held in Accra from 3-6 October 2013, provided a platform for stakeholders to explore recent innovations in yam improvement, share lessons learned, identify research and development needs, and develop global alliances.
Dr Robert Asiedu, IITA Director for Western Africa, and the Convener of the Global Conference on Yam said that the event provided a platform for consultation and development of a global strategy for improving the yam sector based on genetic enhancement; crop protection and mitigation of risks due to pests, diseases and climate change; conservation of genetic resources; prevention of postharvest losses; improved seed systems; crop diversification; and enhancing industrial potential of yam and improved market access.
Over 150 participants from 20 countries around the world attend this event, which paved a path to establish (i) a global alliance for yam improvement; (ii) gain more investments to advance and expand yam R4D agenda globally, and (iii) contribute to the strengthening of R&D capacity and human resource development for sustainable yam improvement.
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