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Improved cowpea seeds creating wealth for Benue farmers

Cowpea farmers in Benue State are generating income from improved cowpea production to better the lives of their households and bridging economic gap in their communities.

Wilfred Adogo, a low income earner, no longer suffers starvation with his family of seven since he ventured into cowpea seed production on his expanse farm land along Gbajimgba road in Makurdi.

Though, a staff of the Federal University of Agriculture in Makurdi (FUAM), Adogo, said his monthly salary was nothing to take home neither could it ever meet the increasing needs of his wife and six children.

“So I took to farming. Initially, my cowpea was not doing very well because I didn’t know where to get improved seeds until in 2015 when I started getting good variety seedlings from FUAM. I can tell you that since then things changed for the better,” he said.

Adogo testified that the proceeds he derived from his cowpea farm last year had enabled him to start the foundation of nine rooms apartment for his family apart from the fact that he paid his children school fees with ease.

According to him, he decided this year again to produce early maturing cowpea on the four hectares of farm land after harvesting maize from the same portion, stressing that the plants were doing so well and would be ready for harvest in 20 days’ time.

He said the expected harvest would earn him more money than that of last year which was altogether 12 bags of cowpea and he had sold each of those bags at N50,000.

“I already used that money to build foundation of a nine rooms apartment. My children don’t lack anything because this is an additional income. I use the little salary I earn from my work at FUAM to buy fertiliser and chemicals to treat the farm. As you can see, I’m doing well and within this season alone, I have planted two different crops on this soil,” Adogo added.

For him, the most interesting aspect of the cowpea seed production this year has been the rush by other farmers including prospective ones who had booked ahead for the seedlings because they were fascinated with the variety.

Adogo told our correspondent who visited the four-hectare farm along the Uniagric-Gbagjimgba road that at least 50 people have given him certain percentage of money as part payment for him to keep some of the seeds for them after harvest.

Even though, he expects to harvest at least 40 bags of cowpea from the farm, Adogo said he would meet the need of those who had already booked for the seeds with additional harvest from his two other farms where he cultivated the crop in smaller quantity.

To this end, he has appealed to the state government to provide tractor services so that farmers like him can expand their farms for massive production of cowpea as it currently begins to gain attraction in the state due to access to improved seed varieties from the agriculture university.

At the moment, Adogo puts in a lot of time, using his wife, six children and other dependants for labour hour which he said would drastically reduce if there are tractors to do the job.

He emphasised, “if I know where to get tractor, I will pay for the services and expand my farm. I grow this crop as a seed producer and sell for other farmers to plant. I got a bag of the FUAM PEA -1 at N50,000 per bag to cultivate on this farm so you can imagine how much money I would make at the end of the season if I double the size of this farm.”

Adogo pointed out that the improved seeds had become farmer’s delight in recent time because it produces simultaneously, it’s tastier than the old variety and healthier for diet than what was formally obtainable.

Apart from him, there were also some women group who cultivated the same variety of cowpea in a farm along the same Gbajimgba route as part of their cooperatives activities to generate income for better living.

Besides, Vitalis Tarnongu, a big time cowpea farmer attested to the sudden success story of Benue farmers who are into cowpea production as he emphasised that the crop was just doing fine.

Tarnongu said he acquired his improved seeds from the Coordinator of International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in the state to plant in his 44 hectares of cowpea farms spread across certain locations in the state.

He added, “my cowpea farm doing very well. I’m expecting to harvest the crop in November.”

On his part, Prof. Lucky Omoigui, a plant breeder in the College of Agronomy, Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi who developed the FUAMPEA 1 in collaboration with the IITA, expressed satisfaction with the development of the farms.

Omoigui urged the state government to support the university to extend its accessibility of improved cowpea seeds to more farmers in the state as it is currently working in only four out of the 23 local government areas with limited support from the IITA which he said was not enough to cover the entire state.

While encouraging idle youths to emulate Adogo and engage in farming to earn decent living and ensure food security for the state, the plant breeder wants the government to, at least, set up tractor services in all local government headquarters so as to attract youth into mechanised farming for the betterment of the citizenry.

“Government should put tractors in all LGAs so that it would attract youth into mechanised farming. Look at what this young man (Adogo) is doing, he has set example for the youth. He has become a major seed dealer to the whole of his community. The project is impacting in the lives of people and this is the only way rural people can benefit,” Omoigui posited.

To this end, the plant breeder noted that they were making sure to develop more varieties of cowpea in the institution so that a particular variety is not used for more than five years as he stressed that the current varieties are striga-resistant and that they have taught the farmers technological ways to better preserve their harvest from being affected with weevils without using chemicals.

Similarly, Mr Teryima Iorlamen, a Principal Investigator with IITA, opined that the cultivation of cowpea in commercial quantity has come to stay in Benue, adding that with the success of the program there will be a huge market for the crop in the state.

He called on women and the youth to take advantage of the skills which the university and IITA provides to go into farming cowpea due to its potentials, especially as with the anti-open grazing law in place, more opportunities were available for them to harness.

Iorlamen emphasised, “with the anti-open grazing law of the state, some of our farmers would be adopting cowpea crop with higher fodders that also serves as animal feeds for dual benefits.”

Source: Daily Trust

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