(Jun. 15, 2023) — The introduction of genetically modified cowpea known as Pod Borer Resistant Cowpea (SAMPEA 20T) in 2019 to Nigerian farmers has received various form of celebration with many farmers recounting their experience with excitement, some are happily smiling to the banks from saving made while others are expanding their investments by acquiring more farmlands.
However, the testimony of Mallam Sani Ibrahim Kazaure from Jigawa state has taken the celebration to another level. Mallam Kazaure is a 65-year-old, father with many dependents, community leader and a prolific farmer who have been cultivating various crops since his childhood said he stopped farming beans since the year 2000 when he could no longer cope with the rising cost of insecticide sprays which is the only means for him to meaningful harvest from his about two-hectare beans farm.
He said he was reintroduced to farming PBR Cowpea through a training program organized by the Agricultural Development Program Officer, which he said initially met with skepticism from his wives and friends, but he decided to experiment with planting the new beans variety.
“Three years ago, the Agricultural Development Programme Officer invited me to a training program where they taught us agronomic practices on how to plant and manage a new variety of beans called PBR. After the training, we were given two packs of about 1 kg which I planted. My wives and friends were laughing at me that I have gone back to farming beans after 20 years. I told them I am only experimenting.
Three years down the lane, what started as an experiment have gone beyond 6 hectares and am looking for more land to plant beans. Planting PBR Cowpea has brought me joy and money. I was able to settle children’s school fees, and renovated my house from proceeds of selling beans that I started planting.
Recall that AATF coordinated a network of both national international organisations for the development and release of the PBR Cowpea in three African countries of Nigeria, Ghana and Burkina Faso.
In Nigeria, the Institute for Agricultural Research, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria led the Nigerian component of the research and development of the project to develop and release the PBR Cowpea as SAMPEA 20-T in 2019.
Following the commercialization of the PBR Cowpea in 2019, farmers in northern Nigeria bought the seeds while some farmers who participated in the National Performance Trial were also giving seeds to try out on their farms.
The Pod Borer Resistant (PBR) Cowpea was not only developed to resist the Maruca Vitrata, it was also developed for high yield and early maturity, utilizing less chemical spray as it requires 2 sprays as against 10 for the conventional varieties.
According to the Principal Investigator or the crop, Professor Mohammed Ishyaku “it is estimated that between N17 billion to N21 billion will be saved annually from the reduction of the use of chemicals insecticide in the production of beans in our fields by planting this new variety instead of the non-resistant one.”
Kazaure and others were among the first group of beneficiaries who planted the variety. “They gave us the seed we planted about two times in both dry and wet seasons. It performed very well on my fields in both the dry and wet season hence my proud decision to only concentrate on cowpea farming for now,” Kazaure added.
“I didn’t use any chemicals on my farm after planting the PBR Cowpea and it did very well in both the wet and dry season. That was what happened. I didn’t use chemicals not even once”, Kazaure stated.
He said the conventional Cowpea varieties he has been planting over the years had never performed like the PBR Cowpea. Kazaure also revealed that he shared the new Cowpea variety with other farmers, after planting, they are still looking for the beans because of the high performance.
“The ones I used to plant before the performance were not like the PBR. That’s why I decided not to plant other cowpea varieties again, only PBR. Behind me there’s one farmer I gave the seed to and he tried it and others are still asking me about the seed that they would like to plant.
Kazaure, who appears very optimistic, said in the new planting season, he will plant more PBR Cowpea in an expanded hectare because of its benefits.
“My plan for this season is to continue with this cowpea and get more land in the wet season. Even now in the dry season I plan to plant more while in the wet season I will increase my hectarage”, he said.
He appealed to other beans farmers to take advantage of the opportunities in planting PBR Cowpea to increase their incomes and reduce the cost of planting the crop.
Kazaure also urged the government to make the seeds available to farmers, adding that because it required less capital to cultivate it is important for the government to ensure that more farmers have access to the seed to enhance our chances of winning the fight against food and nutritional insufficiency.
“To other farmers I ask them to look for the PBR Cowpea seed because it is far better than our local seeds”, he added.
With continued support from government and stakeholders, and availability of the seed, PBR Cowpea has the potential to revolutionize bean farming and contribute to food security in Nigeria.
This article was originally published in the Tribune Online Nigeria