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Kenya and Nigeria join forces in war on weedsqrcode

Jun. 21, 2011

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Jun. 21, 2011

Scientists in Kenya and Nigeria have begun a major push against a parasitic weed that has caused up to Sh103 billion (US$1.2 billion) in damage to maize and cowpea crops in the Sub-Saharan region.

The project, coordinated by the Nigeria-based International Institute of Tropical Agriculture is expected to find ways of fighting the Striga weed.

The Sh774 million project, supported by a Sh580 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will focus on improving and expanding access to methods of Striga control while supporting research to identify the most effective means of controlling the parasitic weed.

Its aim is to help 200,000 maize and 50,000 cowpea farmers in areas with high rates of Striga infestation.

About 80 per cent of people in sub-Saharan Africa depend on agriculture for food, income, and employment.

By the end of the project in 2014, it is estimated that over 250,000 individual farmers will reap up to 50 per cent higher maize yields and 100 per cent higher cowpea yields.

"Most farmers in the Striga Project target areas are resource-poor,” said Dr Prasanna Boddupalli, director of the Nairobi-based International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre.

"The project aims to integrate delivery of Striga-resistant maize and legume seeds with best-bet agronomic technologies to fight the weed menace, while supporting community-based organisations with technical assistance,” he said.

Scientists expect that the integrated witch weed control interventions will generate an estimated $8.6 million worth of additional grain (maize and legumes) annually at the project locations — resulting in increased incomes, better nutrition and reduced poverty, as well as employment opportunities from grain production to food markets.

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