Eliminating Hunger: Yam for Improved Income and Food Security in West Africa
Yam, Dioscorea spp., is a valuable vegetatively propagated crop grown in many parts of the tropics. In West Africa, the species Dioscorea rotundata is a nutritious staple and provides food security and a means of livelihood to millions of people. Yam is produced mainly by smallholder farmers using local landraces with limited inputs. Increased annual production is attained by increasing the area while productivity is low and stagnated. Significant contributors to the low productivity include unavailability, high cost, poor quality of planting material, nematode and viral infections, and declining soil fertility. The multiplication ratio of yam in traditional production methods is low (1:3). Seed to replant the same size of field harvested consumes about a third of the total production, i.e., about 23.6 million tonnes out of 70.8 million tonnes of the annual production of the West African sub-region are reserved for planting the next crop. Improving the seed yam multiplication ratio and productivity will improve the availability of more yams for food. The initiative “Yam Improvement for Income and Food Security in West Africa (YIIFSWA)” has developed new strategies for improved propagation of quality yam planting materials and increased the multiplication ratio to 1:300 using nodal vine cuttings from plants produced in hydroponic systems instead of tubers, thereby releasing more tubers for food use. By using improved yam varieties with good agronomic practices as well as nematode and viral disease management, the productivity of yam is improved. These improvements have great potential to enhance food security and alleviate hunger and poverty.