The president of one of the strongest crop networks in Nigeria, Pastor O.A. Adenola, talks about the need for stakeholders to join forces against aflatoxin spread and other issues. This is an excerpt from his interview with Godwin Atser.
Do farmers understand what aflatoxins are?
They may see the fungus on the maize cob but really many Nigerian farmers do not know the danger in what they see: what it isâ€¦ what effects it has on people as a result of eating grain that is already contaminatedâ€¦ I think we need a lot of awareness, a lot of teaching to get our farmers to know the dangers of aflatoxins in our foods. The problem is that you donâ€™t see them and their effect physically. If you look at the cassava mealybug, for instance, the farmer sees the plant die. In the case of aflatoxins, you donâ€™t see them causing anything bad to maize; it is the after-effect that damages peopleâ€™s health.
What can be done to bring the message to the people?
It has to involve a collective effort from all of us: the research institutes, the Agricultural Development Programs, the Maize Association of Nigeria, and the media. We wonâ€™t make any progress if we donâ€™t collaborate to get the farmers to know the importance of the effect of aflatoxins on human beings and on animals.
You participated in the Doubling Maize Project. What were your observations?
At the time the project was initiated in 2006, the maize production level on average was 1.5 t/ha. The project target was to double productionâ€”from 1.5 to 3 t/ha. A farmer who could not combine production inputs to give us 3 t/ha was not qualified to be involved in the scheme because we did not want to increase the area planted. We wanted to increase production per unit area. The intention was to intensify production so that we could double what was on the ground.
So what happened?
I tell you, farmers made more than 3 t/ha! Also if the technology is properly applied, Nigeria can easily double maize production.
What effort is your association making to disseminate some of the findings of that research to increase maize production?
The maize network is stronger than the networks of other crops in Nigeria, maybe, because of the facilities we have at IITA that are linking us up properly with research and also with Ministries of Agriculture all over the country. And since we were the beneficiaries of the research findings, it was easier for us and for our members to adopt the improved technologies.
All that the researchers were telling us was â€œYou can be better farmers if you take the technology.â€ I must tell you that every farmer is out there in the field because he wants to make more money. So the benefit is good enough to propel the technology.
How is the collaboration between MAAN and IITA?
Excellent! I have been relating with IITA since 1984 and when this Association was formed in 1992, it was formed in IITA. Since then we have had very good collaboration.
What can IITA do to make this partnership grow?
Whenever there is a need and we call on IITA, they have always answered. The Director General and the maize â€œchiefâ€, Dr Sam Ajala and his team, have been very cooperative. That collaboration is what is important. If you have a problem and you call your friend and he answers, then you are okay.