The project will contribute to an improved capacity for yam research-for-development in Central and Western Africa by improving the knowledge and skills of yam researchers in resource mobilisation, project management, communication, data management and current research methods in their disciplines.
Yam is a very important crop for millions of producers, processors and consumers in Central and Western Africa (CWA). Faced with intensification in cultivation, yam farmers need options for improved soil and pest management to raise and sustain productivity of yam cultivation. An increased productivity will make their products competitive in relation to other starchy staples such as rice and cassava that are much better researched. They need early maturing varieties and/or those with appropriate shoot architecture for reduced labour use and increased use of mechanisation and other labour-saving practices. Yam farmers need access to drought tolerant varieties to stabilise productivity in the northern limits of the moist savannah in CWA. Collection and domestication of yams from the wild is still practiced by elderly rural farmers in search of improved genetic potential from natural interspecific hybridisation. Yam cultivation needs significant improvement or ‘modernisation’ to keep pace with the demands of the declining resource base and changes in the socio-economic environment.
Improvement of the crop through science and technology is the responsibility of the few scientists in the sub-region but they are under-resourced and often working in isolation with limited support from their governments. The few yam researchers have not succeeded in turning their passion for the crop and interest in those who depend on it into effective advocacy to policy makers, who have taken it for granted because it is indigenous. It is further disheartening to note that this major indigenous crop does not feature significantly in the curricula of advanced educational institutions that are set up to produce the next generation of scientists and development workers.
The project will strengthen these scientists and their institutions in their abilities to find resources for their work, advocate for supportive policies, conduct good quality research and publish the results in good journals to get the deserved recognition; train several other scientists, students and extension workers; and communicate their results more effectively to the extension workers or the end-users. The outputs from research will eventually reach the ultimate beneficiaries through this pathway, supported by the relevant policies.
Establishing sub-regional agendas (or plans) for yam research-for-development in Central and Western Africa
- Baseline studies to validate the status of yam research-for-development.
- Stakeholders' workshops (such as researchers from universities and agricultural research institutions and farmer organisations) for joint establishment of a framework for yam research-for-development.
Increasing the capacity of the participating institutions to attract resources for yam research-for-development
- Consultation and briefing meetings with policy makers, and stakeholder fora to stimulate support to the yam sector.
- Workshops to improve capacity of project participants in advocacy, communication, and the formulation and submission of project proposals to obtain funding.
Improving the quality of planning and implementation of research on yams
- Training sessions to upgrade the skills of project participants in data management and scientific writing.
- Workshops to improve capacity of project participants in project management.
- Study visits among project participants for training, sharing of expertise and provision of technical backstopping.
- Training for research technicians on the collection of research data and management of research fields.
Establishing a platform for documentation and dissemination of information from yam research and development
- Access to a dynamic web-based regional yam database.
- Activities to increase the visibility of the project including the production of some technical manuals.