For generations, Nigerian farmers had battled the relentless scourge of the pod borer, a formidable pest that feasted upon their precious cowpea crops, leaving devastation in its wake.
The losses incurred were not merely financial, but also emotional, as hopes and dreams were shattered alongside the ravaged plants.
But in the year 2021 the sun rose on the horizon, casting its golden glow upon the fields, a sense of anticipation filled the air. Nigerian farmers had gathered from all corners of the nation, their eyes filled with hope and skepticism, as they assembled to witness the unveiling of the Pod Borer Resistant Cowpea in Kano state, northwest Nigeria.
A hush fell over the crowd as the representatives from AATF and the Institute for Agricultural Research, Zaria took to the stage. With unwavering confidence, they began to unveil the secret behind this miraculous creation. Through tireless research and dedication, they had developed a variety of cowpea that possessed resistance to the pod borer which is responsible for over 80 percent of destruction on cowpea field.
As the details of the research were shared, excitement rippled through the audience. The Pod Borer Resistant Cowpea had been carefully engineered to produce a toxin that deterred the voracious appetite of the pod borer, rendering it ineffective against this resilient crop. It was a marvel of science, a gift to the farmers who had long yearned for a solution.
With bated breath, the farmers listened as the experts spoke of trials and tests that had been conducted. The results were astounding. Fields that had once been decimated by the pod borer were now thriving with healthy, resilient cowpea plants. The yield had multiplied, and with it, the hopes and dreams of those who relied on these crops for their livelihoods.
Three years later, Sanusi Haruna, a beans farmer in Gezawa, Local Government Area of Kano State who was among the farmers who witnessed the unveiling of the PBR Cowpea said the introduction of the variety was divine.
Haruna said for the last three planting season that he started farming the PBR Cowpea, his harvest increased from the usual one bag of beans to 5 bags without him increasing the size of his farm or spending much on chemical spray.
The 58-year-old farmer who has been planting Cowpea for about 28 years, said he made about 200 to 250 percent profit when he sold the PBR Cowpea he harvested from his farm which is far above what he gets when he planted the conventional cowpea variety.
“The other variety which I was planting previously is not as productive as the PBR. I am happy with this kind of beans because I had never made the kind of profit, I made from PBR for the over 20 years that I have been planting our local variety, rather I spend a lot on chemical as I spray up to 10 times in a planting season to keep the insect away,” he said.
Haruna said many farmers in his community is interested in planting the PBR Cowpea after seeing the performance of the crop on his farm, hence next planting season, they would want to seeds made available to them.
He said only about 10 of them had knowledge about PBR Cowpea in his local government area. “This has put us under pressure as the news about our harvest is making round and everybody wants the seeds to plant.”
He said unlike the conventional Cowpea variety, which he inspects daily on the farm, with the PBR Cowpea, he goes to farm every two days to inspect the crop because he knows that the crop resists the insects on the farm.
Another farmer, Bashiru Bala in Gezawa, Kano state who has been farming beans for over 15 years, said since he started planting PBR Cowpea two years ago, it has outperformed the old variety he has been planting.
“For the past two years I got this type of beans from one Mallam in our LGA and I planted. I was astonished by the harvested and I have since been encouraging my fellow farmers to look for the variety and plant.
“This type of beans is not just the same with the one I have been planting in terms of the efforts that goes into its production and when you cook it, It’s different from every other beans, very sweet”, he said.
Bala said he planted two ‘mudu’ of the PBR Cowpea and harvested 100 kg bag of beans. “This for me is a miracle as it has never happened. I didn’t spend much money on chemicals.”
He urged the government to support the farmers by ensuring they get this beans variety every year so that they can produce enough for Nigerians and also make money out of.
Days turned into weeks, and weeks into months since the introduction of the PBR Cowpea variety, more farmers have continued to plant the variety and more cowpea fields are once again teemed with life, as the PBR cowpea flourished under the care of grateful farmers. The news of this miraculous crop spread far and wide, reaching the ears of farmers in distant lands who yearned for their own salvation.
And so, the legacy of the PBR cowpea continued to grow, its story whispered among the agricultural communities in northern Nigeria, It became a symbol of innovation and progress, a testament to the power of collaboration and unwavering determination.
This article was originally published in the Tribune Online Nigeria