Stress-Tolerant Maize for Africa: Solution to Nigerian food insecurity? (II) by Prof M. K Othman

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Sabo Nanono, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Sabo Nanono, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.

In the first part of this article, the genesis of Stress-Tolerant Maize for Africa (STMA) was discussed. STMA was derived from the combined products and successes of the two previous maize projects: the Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) and Improved Maize for African Soils (IMAS).

The products under DTMA are maize varieties with drought tolerance (DT). Similarly, the products under IMAS are maize varieties with high nitrogen use efficiency (NUE). Therefore, the STMA project deals with the development, production, testing and promotion of mainly four varieties of maize.

These varieties are Drought-tolerant or tolerant to climatic stresses, Striga-resistant, disease/pest-resistant, and low-nitrogen tolerant or high nitrogen use efficiency. The choice of maize among all other major food crops was deliberately made to address the food security of over 200 million people, reduce poverty among the rural populace and contribute to the development of Agriculture in Nigeria.

READ ALSO: Stress-Tolerant Maize for Africa: Solution to Nigerian food insecurity? by Professor M.K Othman

Maize is one of the important grains in Nigeria as more than 50 per cent of the farmers cultivates it across the nation. It has profitable advantages compared to other crops as farmers can earn three to four times the economic value of their investment.

Maize is a major important cereal crop. It is being cultivated in the rainforest and the savannah zones of Nigeria whose range of annual rainfall spans from 600 to 3,000 millimetres. Maize is used for the production of many dishes in almost all Nigerian households for different meals from breakfast to dinner.

Historically, Nigerians are known for massive consumption of maize and maize products for many decades. Maize production started as a subsistence crop and gradually become one of the most important crops in Nigeria. Maize has now risen to a commercial crop on which many agro-based industries use as raw materials.

Maize is high yielding, easy to process, readily digested and cost less than other cereals. It is also a versatile crop, allowing it to grow across a range of agro-ecological zones. It is an important source of carbohydrate and if eaten in the immature state, provides useful quantities of Vitamin A and C.

In Nigeria, cereals (mainly maize, rice and wheat) supply about 80% of the energy requirements. At the utilization level, maize is easy to process, readily digested and costs less than other cereals. Maize thrives best in a warm climate and is now grown in most of the countries that have suitable climatic conditions.

The mature maize is a good source of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibre. Since almost all small-scale farmers in the country are involved in maize farming, it makes it an affordable source of vitamins and minerals for people living in rural areas. Small-scale farmers produce more than 70 per cent of the foods consumed in Nigeria. Consequently, the STMA project has a programme for building the capacity of women groups on maize processing and value addition.

On the number of dishes being produced from maize or maize in combination with other agricultural commodities, NAERLS listed 48 Maize recipes as delicious dishes to meet the nutritional requirements of the households.

NAERLS (National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services) is one of the seventeen National Agricultural Research Institutes under Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

NAERLS publication titled “A Short Handbook on Maize Recipes” catalogues on how to prepare the 48 recipes in simple, guided and teach-yourself methods. This handbook or Cookbook was produced as a simple guide/ instructional material on how to prepare various African dishes and snacks.

These recipes include Maize Jallop, Moi-Moi, cookies, cakes, chin-chin, couscous, cornbread, corn pudding, corn-groundnut biscuit, pap powder, couscous powder, tuwo powder, waina and many others. This handbook of the recipes is tagged “STMA Yummy”, a kind of kitchen important treasure for both households and commercial restaurants.

STMA Yummy is a promotion component of the project, which focuses on capacity building of women groups, chefs and restaurant owners. The training activities include linkages to agricultural credits, and improved maize processing and value addition for increased income generation and increased family nutrition. Since inception in 2016, the Project conducted over six of such training across the nation where Nigerians were sensitized on the importance of STMA to their daily diets.

The trainees were taught on how to prepare cooked, roasted or blended maize and used in delicacies like fried rice, jollof rice, etc. They were also trained on how to blend maize and used in pancakes, baby food, flakes, and baking.

 How can STMA contribute to food security in Nigeria?

Before answering this question, it may interest our readers to know that the Nigerian scientists in Nigeria developed all the STMA varieties with the active support of the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan.

The organizations involved in the development and promotion of the STMA are NAERLS, IITA, CYMMIT, IAR, University of Ilorin, Obafemi Awolowo University, Premier Seeds and Maslaha Seeds. From 2016 to 2018, a total of 13 STMA varieties were released for public use with unique characteristics of being “Extra early, Early, Intermediate, open-pollinated (OP), or Hybrid”.

Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) is reputed as the frontrunner in the release of these varieties. IAR alone released 10 varieties out of the 13 released during the period. Development of crop variety from the breeder seed to certified seed takes a minimum of five years of continuous laboratory and field experimentation by hard-working and result-oriented experts.

Now to question on STMA contribution to food security, it is already making a giant stride in maize production in the country. According to Agricultural Performance Survey Report of 2019, maize production for Nigeria was 12,000 1000 tons. Maize production of Nigeria increased from 1,310 1000 tons in 1970 to 12,000 1000 tons in 2019 growing at an average annual rate of 6.89%.

STMA significantly contributed to raising the level of production to this peak. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, breeders’ seeds released were 7.2, 4.1 and 2.71 tons transformed to certified seeds of 21.529 tons, 29,219 tons and 43,651 tons respectively for the period under review.

A total of 108,730 multimedia packages were used for the promotion and awareness creation of STMA among farmers across the nation. STMA project continues to build the capacity of farmers through training, on-farm trials and establishment of demonstration plots.

There is a massive expansion of maize production to marginal areas where maize was hitherto not produced. This has translated in maize production and productivity. Consequently, there is an improvement in the standard of living of small-scale farmers and improvement in nutritional status of resource-poor farmers

In conclusion, the Stress-Tolerant Maize for Africa (STMA) project is propelling the nation towards the achievement of food security and improvement of farmers’ livelihoods in Nigeria. This is done through various novel activities of developing and disseminating improved maize varieties.

Indeed, we are better off than where we were five years ago with regard to maize production along the value chain. Data from the Annual Agricultural Performance Survey by the National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), as well as from the Food and Agriculture Organization have shown that, in the last five years, Nigeria’s maize production has consistently increased over the years.

It is hoped that this collaboration between NAERLS, IITA, CYMMIT, IAR, University of Ilorin, Obafemi Awolowo University, Premier Seeds, Maslaha Seeds, and several others is maintained and strengthened and/or extended to other crops. With such a partnership, Nigeria will attain its food security objectives in no distant time. All hands must be on deck.

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