In the heart of the East Gonja District of the Savannah Region of Ghana, CSIR-SARI (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research – Savanna Agricultural Research Institute) and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), as part of the PROSSIVA project, hosted a remarkable field day on the 18th of September 2023. Despite rain temporarily delaying the event, the program showcased innovative approaches set to transform yam farming not only in the region but also across West Africa.

Dr. Kwabena Darkwa, a research scientist specializing in yam at CSIR-SARI in Tamale, shed light on the project’s overarching goal. He emphasized the pressing challenge faced by farmers in sourcing high-quality seed yam. This challenge is marked by the steep cost of conventional seed yam and its subpar quality, often laden with diseases and pests. Dr. Darkwa introduced a solution: the production of seed yam from leaf bud cuttings. This high-ratio propagation technique has a remarkable multiplication ratio, with a single leaf capable of yielding up to 150 new plants in just four months, compared to the 4 to 8 new seeds per year from the traditional approach. The result is not only cost-effective but also free from diseases and pests, empowering farmers, particularly women and youth, to actively engage in seed production.

Prof. Morufat Balogun, leader of the PROSSIVA yam component, emphasized the urgent need for adaptation to changing environmental conditions. These changes include shifting rainfall patterns and evolving disease dynamics. She said, “The failure to adapt could lead to reduced yields, underscoring the necessity of innovation in yam farming.”

Sali Alhassan, a yam farmer from Kabache – Kasawurape, highlighted the marked difference observed between traditional seed yam leaves and those produced through the innovative approach. Traditional seed tubers often yielded few leaves with disease symptoms, while the new approach resulted in healthier, disease-free leaves, ultimately leading to higher yields.

Dr. Beatrice Aighewi, yam seed systems specialist at IITA, also encouraged the farmers to adopt good agronomic practices to improve their crop yield.

The Public Relations Officer, Mr. Wilhelm Kutah, said, “Despite the rain delay, the PROSSIVA Yam Field Day showcased that innovation is the linchpin in overcoming the challenges faced by yam farmers in West Africa. The introduction of vine cutting and the emphasis on producing healthy seeds promise to reshape yam farming, empowering rural communities and ensuring sustainable agriculture in an ever-changing landscape. This event serves as a testament to the spirit of cooperation and determination needed to carve a brighter future for yam farming in the region.”