BEANS is a food eaten in almost all the households in Nigeria, and it is one of the major sources of plant protein; that is why it is widely eaten across Sub-Saharan Africa.
This crop called wake in Hausa, ewa in Yoruba and agwa in Igbo is either cooked or processed into moi moi or akara for consumption.
Many households in Nigeria depend on this legume for daily food which can be prepared as porridge with the little ingredient.
The production of this staple crop has suffered setbacks due to pest attacks both on the farm and during storage which has led to a shortfall in supply and high cost.
This crop is majorly attacked by pod-borer (Maruca vitrata) while on the field, which damages up to 70 to 80 per cent of harvest.
The conventional beans variety cannot stand the attacks of Maruca, which has made the farmers to adopt the use of chemicals to control the pests from ravaging the farms.
Nigeria has the potential to produce enough beans to feed its populace, and for export, but sadly, the pod borer insect pest has made it unrealistic as it continues to damage farms across the country
No wonder in April 2019, the Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Science and Technology, Mr Bitrus Bako said Nigeria spends N16 billion annually importing beans.
Worried about this ugly development, scientists at the Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR), Zaria with support from the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) developed the Pod Borer Resistant (PBR) beans.
This beans variety has the capacity to resist this pod borer insect pest as it also increases the yield of the bean with a low maturity period.
In January 2019, the Nigerian National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) approved the environmental release of this beans variety.
Similarly, on 12th December 2019, the National Committee on Naming, Registration and Release of Crop Material approved for commercial release of the beans.
After the approval for commercial release was granted, IAR and AATF embarked on nationwide demonstration of the crop and training of farmers and extension workers on good agronomic practices for the beans variety so that the technology can be utilized maximally.
Farmers, extension officers and agents from Bauchi, Jigawa, Plateau, Adamawa, Katsina, Kaduna, Kano, Zamfara, Niger and Abuja were trained.
During the training, the Principal Investigator of the beans, Professor Ishiyaku Mohammed, said that the nationwide demonstration is the platform through which farmers across Nigeria will have firsthand knowledge and test the ability of PBR Cowpea to deliver on the promises made by scientists.
Also Nigerian seed companies were engaged to multiply the beans seed, and the AATF inaugurated a Steward Committee for the crop as a way to further guide farmers on how to handle the crop.
During field visits, the farmers that planted the crop had expressed satisfaction with the performance of the crop, some have started earning good living from planting the crop because of the high yield and low cost of managing it on the farm.
Just recently a ‘Eating is Believing’ event was organized at the headquarters of National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), with the aim of preparing various delicacies with the beans variety and allow the public to eat and experience the taste of this new beans variety.
The event was attended by a high-powered delegation from Ghana 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, Professor. Ebenezer Okletey Terlarbi.
During the event, the Director General NABDA, Professor Abdullahi Mustapha reiterated that Biotechnology is a cutting-edge technology of the 21st Century that has proven world -wide to enhance productivity, reduce drudgery, and increase yields and brought about enhancement of food security in agriculture and economic growth.
“Biotechnology has proven its potential 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 methods 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. There are videos of this”, he said.
He said considering Nigeria’s huge challenge and the desire to feed the populace to ensure food and nutritional security, Nigeria must make technology the engine room for its agricultural development. That way, it can ensure that no African goes to bed hungry.
“The future of our food security lies in our ability to adopt necessary technologies that will make farming a profitable business, an employer of labour, attract the younger generation into farming and ensure abundance of quality food and at the same time an engine of economic growth”, Professor Mustapha added.