Beans Farming

WHY BENUE FARMERS PREFER ‘KWANKWASO’ COWPEA

Despite the blazing sun, farmers in Benue State were not deterred as they patiently walked through the length and breadth of the large cowpea plantation owned by the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi (FUAM). Guided by researchers in different fields of agriculture, the farmers halted their movement intermittently to examine, deliberate and scrutinise the varieties of the cowpea before them.

The farmers were drawn from various localities in the state to make an informed choice about the kind of cowpea they would like to grow so that the seeds would be improved for commercial production.

The project, known as Accelerated Varita Improvement and Seed System Delivery in Africa (AVISA), is managed at the commercial farm of the FUAM, in collaboration with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).

Sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, AVISA seeks, among other things, to conduct trials of pre-released lines, released varieties and seed production.

AVISA’s cowpea seed systems focal person for Nigeria, Teryima Iorlamen, said the exercise would enable farmers to adapt whatever the breeders had improved upon.

“Whatever breeders are doing, we take it to the farmers to see if they could be adopted. So, this exercise involved us (AVISA) taking the farmers around the field to see for themselves and make their choices of what the breeders are talking about, by confirming whether it is true,’’ he said.

Iorlamen said the project was being carried out in seven countries, including Nigeria, and the FUAM is coordinating the seed system in Nigeria. He added that there were more than 50 varieties of cowpea in Nigeria, out of which the best selected 10 were planted in all agro-ecological zones to find how best the varieties would do on the varied soils.

He further said the best 10 varieties planted at FUAM’s farm in Benue was the reason for the event, which provided farmers the opportunity to compare all the varieties and pick what they know would be best for Benue farmers.

He listed the varieties to include FUMPEA I and II, SAMPEA 11, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 40 days (Kwankwaso). The seeds of the varieties are big, small and brown, or white in colour, while most of them are high-yielding, with early maturity timeline.

At the end of the outing, the farmers indicated their preference for the 40-day variety, popularly known as ‘Kwankwaso,’ which they had not cultivated. This was followed by the SAMPEA 19 (Samaru-Zaria pea) and the SAMPEA 14, as well as SAMPEA 18, which came bracket third.

Also, on the farmers’ order of consideration, the Federal University of Agriculture Pea I (FUMPEA I) got the sixth position while the FUMPEA II came a distant eight.

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