NABDA/OFAB: Providing solutions to major challenges confronting cowpea farming through technology

Practice section on cowpea varieties

The Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology(OFAB), under the auspices of NABDA, in collaboration with AATF, organised a joint Nigeria-Ghana Press Conference on PBR Cowpea with a view to further enhancing scientific bilateral collaboration for a “New Africa”.
The conference which has the theme: ‘Eating is Believing” – PBR Beans for Nutrition and Food Security, also brought different stakeholders together to enlighten the public on the significance of PBR Cowpea.

In his speech, Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha, Director General/CEO NABDA said, “NABDA, based on her mandate is at the forefront of Biotechnology deployment and domestication in Nigeria in the four sectors of the economy-Agriculture, Health Environment and Industry in order to respond positively to national aspirations on food security, job/wealth creation, affordable healthcare delivery, industrialization and sustainable environment.”

Dr Gidado frying (Akara a.k.a kose)

According to him, “Biotechnology has proven its potentials to help us overcome agricultural productivity challenges leading to more yield (e.g., 2.9 tons /hectare of Bt cowpea from 350kg of non-Bt cowpea) and addressing various breeding limitations that conventional breeding method cannot address. The PBR Cowpea is a classic example of how the technology can provide solutions to one of the major challenges confronting cowpea farming. Needless, I bother you with the long history of several attempts by cowpea breeders who tried to find solutions to ravaging attacks of Maruca. For many years without success in the past. This technology has taken care of that and its potentials to improve other crops have started emerging. Farmers in Nigeria are excited with the performance of this new variety and giving testimonies.”
Buttressing on the importance of cowpea, Prof Abdullahi said, “going down the history lane of Bt. Cowpea Project in Nigeria, NABDA in carrying out her mandate of biotechnology facilitation, and as a requisite for compliance to Biosafety regulation, in 2010/2011, in partnership with the African Agricultural Technology Foundation, Kenya, designed, constructed a level -2 containment facility, which was used for Biosafety containment studies at IAR, Zaria, where this project was developed. So also, NABDA, with the support of the Ministry of Science and Technology also facilitated, funded and spearheaded heavily the Biosafety Bill passage process which took nearly six years at the national Assembly before its passage and subsequent assent by the President which led to the creation of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) with pockets of technical support from development partners like the AATF, USAID, USDA, PBS, AU-NEPAD/ABNE, Africa Harvest, Biotechnology International(AHBFI), Nairobi, Bayer International, Crop Life International, USA etc. This action provided an enabling and friendly regulatory environment as required by the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety which Nigeria signed and ratified in 2001/2002. Without this, Nigeria couldn’t have commercialized any genetically modified crop.,”

“The National Biotechnology Development Agency under Fed Min of Science, Technology and Innovation (FMTI) and through the National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology(NACGRAB), her specialized Centre, being the main Secretariat of the National Varietal Release Committee (NVRC), has released hundreds of improved varieties of crops including Bt Cowpea and Bt Cotton, livestock and fisheries. And in years’ time, we are expecting the release of the 3rd GM crop, Tela Maize, developed for drought tolerance and insect resistance (Stem borer and Fall army worm).”
In his words:
“Farmers in African countries cannot attain the yield potentials of our popular legumes when compared to other parts of the world. While farmers in the Americas, West and Asia are getting over 10 tons per hectare for maize, our farmers are still struggling to attain 4 tons per hectare. The place of science, technology and innovation in our quest for development in all sectors of the economy cannot be over emphasized. The feat attained with the development and commercialization of the PBR Cowpea has again proven that if determined, Africa has what it takes to solve its challenges. Remember that it is about food and nutritional security, wellbeing of our farmers, improved income, less use of chemical sprays for environmental sustainability. “

“Biotechnology adoption and acceptance globally are on the rise, even countries such as Great Britain which the anti-technology crusaders have continued to cite as against the technology has fully come on board with new law on gene edited crops. As at 2021, there are at least 2,558 organizations in the Australian biotechnology ecosystem, growing ~38% since 2019; 177 biotech companies listed on the ASX (Australian stock exchange), worth about $260 billion combined and at least 290,973 employees working across Australia; this increase is by at least 20% since 2019 (up from 243,406). While the Indian biotechnology industry amounted to US$ 63 billion in 2019 and is forecast to reach US$ 150 billion by 2025, with a CAGR of 16.4%. By 2025, the contribution of the Indian biotechnology industry in the global biotechnology market is expected to grow to 19% from 3% in 2017.”

Dr Rose Gidado demonstrating how to use cowpea varieties
DG NABDA on tour with participants

Addressing the participants, Dr. Rose Gidado, the country Director OFAB Nigeria Chapter, said Mobile Kitchen Campaign- “Eating is Believing” is an advocacy encouraging eating new beans variety.

According to her, ” the campaign will provide diverse market and people can have different choices. Also to increase market, stakeholders, number of champions and enhance farmers varieties of this champions.

Dignitaries present at the event includes some Ghanaians led by the Chairman Parliamentary Select Committee on Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI), Dr. Emmanuel Marfor and the Ranking Member, Parliamentary Select Committee on MESTI, Prof. Ebenezer Okletey Terlarbi; Policy Makers, Farmers, and Regulators.