As a graduate of biotechnology and genetics I am poised to write to authorities in the agriculture sector, policy makers, sister and supporting Ministries departments and Agencies, opinion leaders, well spirited individuals, private sector and students to describe the usefulness and applications of this novel field of agricultural biotechnology and show how it can contribute to the agriculture sector as well as the economy of a developing country like Nigeria. I think these authorities will be interested to know the achievements of this field, the potential estimated market volume, the demand from agriculture and the role of Agricultural biotechnology in meeting this demand, and its impact on National development. Although some in-depth studies have been performed on this topic and literature documented, it is pertinent that I bring some salient features to light. Using information available from other findings, this write up is aimed at bringing the science of Agricultural biotechnology to the attention of busy stakeholders in the agriculture sector and other related sectors in the country and encourage them to understand the potentials that lie fallow in this novel science.

Briefly, agricultural biotechnology is the manipulation of Crops and Animals or their parts for the production of value added goods and services for man use.


Ever since the dawn of time, man kind has been in constant practice  of agriculture as the most fundamental means to satisfy the basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter. This need therefore calls for a proper understanding of the underlying principles of agriculture so as to exploit them for maximum productivity. Thus this field has been subjected to series of reassessment of its practices and innovations not only to achieve its immediate benefits but to carter for the rapidly growing population.

In the early years of agriculture, from 10th century BC man started exploiting crops and livestock using informal and crude practices which involve the reliance on the biological methods of pest and weed control, shifting cultivation, bush fallowing etc. down to the formal era of inputs such as herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, and to the classical breeding era of hybridization, evaluation, and selection. These practices though helpful had shortcomings in terms of inadequate food production to meet the demands of the growing population and destruction of the natural ecosystem and biodiversity. In the quest to carter for these shortcomings came the birth of the science I describe as the best of the epoch, a science with impetus for more agriculture research and that which has all the potentials to unlock the mechanisms of living machines “Recombinant genetics and biotechnology”

A few of its applications and achievements are discussed below;

 Insect resistant crops: These crops have been engineered to express a self-defense for insect pest so as to enhance productivity and reduce crop losses for e.g. Bt cotton (Bacillus thuringienesis). This cotton has DNA (genetic material) from the soil microbe Bacillus thuringienesis incorporated into its genome (Entire genetic make up) which enables it to express resistance for insect pest. This cotton was adopted by Indian farmers and it increased their average yield by 70% between 2001 and 2008 and half of this increase is attributed to the Bt cotton adopted by Indian farmers (James 2009), this also suggest why India is presently the highest exporter of cotton. A decrease in cotton boll insecticide use by 56% between 1998 and 2006, which is cost saving for 6million Indian farmers who grew Bt cotton in 2009 (James 2009). In 2009, 7million Chinese farmers also grew Bt cotton and yield was increased by 10% and insecticide use decreased by 60% (James 2009) other engineered insect resistant crops include Bt corn, rice, etc.

 Herbicide tolerant crops:  These are crops that have been engineered so that their growth and development is not significantly affected by herbicides used on the weeds growing around them. This will enhance crop yield, reduce wastage, reduce cost and as well help in maintaining biodiversity. Crops such as maize, wheat, sugar cane, rice, onions etc. have been genetically modified to express this trait.

 Protein enhanced sweet potatoes: Sweet potatoes is known for its carbohydrate rich content, recently scientist have developed a protein rich sweet potatoes by isolating a gene AmA1 rich in lysine from the amaranth plant and incorporating it into the genome of sweet potatoes and it is well expressed. This protein AmA1 is not known to be an allergen.

 Cheese Making: Because of the insufficiency in rennet production from animals, and other natural sources, rennet which is an enzyme which produces chymosin which curdles milk in cheese production is now been mass produced by isolating the gene for rennet production from animal stomach and insert them into certain bacteria, fungi to make them produce chymosin during fermentation. The genetically modified microorganism is killed after fermentation and chymosin is removed from the fermentation broth so that the fermentation produced chymosin does not contain any GM component or ingredient.


Due to empirical facts that biotechnology products are safe to use, and the promise biotechnology holds to bring more innovation to agriculture; producing more food to meet the growing demand while maintaining the biodiversity. The market potential is estimated with respect to the growing population, availability and acceptability of products. Presently some biotechnology products have been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration and are on shelves, they experience a high demand and have not been reported to have any negative effect on consumers. It is anticipated that as more products receive approval of regulatory bodies and come into the market in the near future so, will the market demand increase, hence its volume. Recently Genetically Modified Salmon was approved in the US and is already being consumed by many people.

Why have some countries accepted GMO? Why the misconceptions? Is this technology truly beneficial and how? The next part of this article will tell us

Written by Opuah Abiekwen( Graduate of Biotechnology and Genetics, University of Calabar


GROWERS: Know your Nozzles.

More and more growers or farmers are beginning to adopt the use of Crop Protection Products (CPP) in their farming operations. These could include herbicides, insecticides, fungicides or even liquid fertilizers. To effectively use these farmers usually needs to have spraying equipment which could be a knapsack, a mechanized sprayer and for large farms boom sprayers attached to a tractor.

Sprayers have various parts and this I will discuss in another blog post. However, from my experience with farmers I have discovered that many a times the wrong kind of nozzle is used per time. What do I mean, for example a farmer is spraying an insecticide and he uses a nozzle fit for an herbicide. Let’s take a short ride to know a bit more about nozzle.  I really do hope this is helpful to one or two of my readers, if possible all of you.


Nozzles are critical in spraying. It is helps to control spray of liquid be it fertilizer or pesticides. It aids in atomization. Atomization involves the breakup of spray liquid into droplets. A nozzle also ensures that the spray liquid is dispersed in a specific pattern. Thus nozzles play a very important role in spray.


  1. Hydraulic : This basically uses water pressure as a means of transmission
  2. Gaseous : This uses air pressure
  3. Centrifugal : This uses gravitational pull
  4. Electrical : Uses electricity


Flat Fan Nozzles

flat fanThis is the appropriate nose for herbicides. It usually found on tractors and has medium droplet size. It’s not fit for knapsacks.





Flood Jet Nozzle

flood jetThis kind of nozzle is appropriate for a knapsack. It releases droplet in big size. The flood jet nozzle is very fitting for fertilizer application.




Full Cone Nozzle

full coneThis nozzle type should be used for fungicide and insecticide. It provides fine droplet when spraying






Even Flat Fan Nozzle

This is very similar to the flat fan nozzle and is fitting for herbicide spray. It is suitable for a knapsack.

even flat fan

Hollow Cone Nozzle

hollow coneThis is also used for insecticide and fungicide applications. It has a hallow spray pattern





The next time you spray be sure to you the right nozzle. It goes a long way to ensure you efficiently use your CPP or fertilizer as the case may be.

Africa’s biggest maker of ethanol from cassava says IITA technologies are helping farmers to double yields


L-R: Godwin Atser, Communication Officer (West & Central Africa), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA);  Kenton Dashiell, Deputy Director General, Partnerships & Capacity Development, IITA;  Rajasekar Rajavelu, Director (Agro), Allied Atlantic Distilleries Limited, AADL; and an AADL official during a tour of the cassava-ethanol plant in Igbesa, Ogun

L-R: Godwin Atser, Communication Officer (West & Central Africa), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA); Kenton Dashiell, Deputy Director General, Partnerships & Capacity Development, IITA; Rajasekar Rajavelu, Director (Agro), Allied Atlantic Distilleries Limited, AADL; and an AADL official during a tour of the cassava-ethanol plant in Igbesa, Ogun


Allied Atlantic Distilleries Limited (AADL), , Africa’s biggest maker of ethanol from cassava, says improved varieties and best-bet agronomic practices in the production of cassav

a, which it obtained from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and passed on to farmers have almost doubled the yield of the root crop, making it possible for farmers to supply more of this raw material to the industry

than earlier expected.

Commissioned on 30 January (Thursday) in Lasada, Igbese community in Ogun State, the ethanol factory will produce 9 million liters per annum of extra neutral alcohol, requiring approximately 250 tons of cassava per day.

Already over 8,000 farmers located within 70-km radius of Igbesa covering Ogun and Oyo states, southwest Nigeria, have been engaged and the factory is providing more than 40,000 indirect jobs to people in the area, Mr Ola Rosiji, Chairman of

AADL said.

 “With the support of IITA, our farmers have doubled their yields from an average 12 t/ha to 22 t/ha; our farmers now earn double what they would have earned,” he added.

Commending the board and management of the company, Dr Kenton Dashiell, IITA Deputy Director General, Partnerships & Capacity Development, representing Director General Nteranya Sanginga, said the inauguration of the factory was indeed a good opportunity for Africa, and especially cassava growers, who now have more markets for their produce.

 He said that the factory would create jobs, attract foreign investment, and create wealth for the people, adding that IITA is willing to partner with the private sector to lift 11 million people out of poverty and also reclaim and put into sustainable use 7.5 million hectares of degraded land.

   Collaboration between IITA and AADL, a subsidiary of the Lexcel Group, began in the early 2000s when the project was conceived and IITA provided inputs to the feasibility study of the investment. Also under the Cassava Transformation Agenda, which is being coordinated by Dr Richardson Okechukwu, IITA is again linking farmers to the factory. In addition, the Institute is also providing training and improved planting materials and technical advisory support to the firm.

HarvestPlus Country Manager Paul Ilona said the factory would change the outlook of cassava from the global perspective of “a poor man’s crop” to an industrial crop.

The Governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun commended IITA for the good work it has been doing to improve the lives of people in Africa.

For more information, please contact: Godwin Atser,; or Andrea Gros,

UN and partners launch 3-year humanitarian plan to help Africa’s Sahel region

Photo: ©FAO/Issouf Sanogo

Seeds being delivered to farming families in the Sahel

The United Nations and humanitarian partners launched a three-year Regional Strategic Response Plan to provide aid to millions of people in nine countries in Africa’s Sahel region. The plan seeks to mobilize an initial US$2 billion from international donors in 2014.

Some twenty million people are currently at risk of food insecurity in the Sahel and 2.5 million of them need urgent lifesaving food assistance. An estimated 5 million children under five years of age will suffer from malnutrition in 2014, and some 1.5 million of them will face acute malnutrition. Violence and insecurity has forced 1.2 million people to flee their homes creating protracted internal displacement and a refugee crisis.

“More people than ever are at risk in the Sahel and the scale of their needs is so great that no agency or organization can tackle it alone,” said UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos in Rome. “The strategic plan for the region will help us reach millions of people with vital assistance, build resilience and save lives.”

The strategy comprises country plans for Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal. It emphasizes strong partnerships with Governments and development partners, a regional perspective and multi-year time frame to better address the chronic causes of the crises.

“Our first priority is to ensure that farmers in the Sahel have a successful planting season in the coming weeks, providing them urgently with agricultural inputs,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. “But our responsibility is also to make sure that the next drought will not lead to another major humanitarian crisis. Together with national governments and partners, we are working to build the resilience of Sahelian populations by producing quality seed varieties, rehabilitating degraded agricultural land, conserving rainwater and supporting small-scale irrigation.”

Population growth in the region is outstripping a slight increase in food production in 2013 and lack of access to food is compounded by high prices in most markets.

“The situation requires an early and large-scale humanitarian response in almost all countries of the Sahel,” said Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response.

“The European Commission will give €142 million in humanitarian aid in 2014. More contributions from international donors are needed as soon as possible to meet the basic needs of the people in the Sahel.”

Also present at the launch in Rome were Romano Prodi, UN Special Envoy on the Sahel; Amir Abdulla, Deputy Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, World Food Programme (WFP); Nancy Lindborg, Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, USAID; and Robert Piper, Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel.

The 2013 appeal for the Sahel requested $1.7 billion and was 63 per cent funded.

PHOTO- Photo: ©FAO/Issouf Sanogo

Original Post- FAO Media

AGRA plans policy, regulation reforms to transform agribusiness in Africa.

Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), on Tuesday 10th December 2013 in Nairobi, announced a five-year project that seeks to increase incomes of smallholder farmers through the creation of an enabling policy environment in Africa.

The initiative –Micro Reforms for African Agribusiness (MIRA) – will identify, prioritize and reform specific agricultural policies and regulations
that currently deter or limit private investment in small- and medium-sized agribusinesses operating in smallholder agricultural value chains.

A release from the body said “Over a period of five years, AGRA aims to motivate at least 25 significant
policies or regulatory reforms in selected countries, leading to measurable increases in private sector
investment in local agribusinesses.

“The project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, is expected to increase the number of smallholder farmers accessing improved technologies supplied by agribusinesses operating in local staple food value chains. It will also help them access stable, predictable income generating market opportunities”.
According to the release “This enhanced access to input and output markets is in turn expected to lead
to increased smallholder productivity and incomes, and reduced poverty for smallholder farm- dependent families”.

Continuing AGRA President Ms. Jane Karuku said “We are very excited about this new initiative. It will help African Governments unlock agricultural potential in their countries by supporting their efforts to develop progressive agricultural policies that will attract increased private investment in smallholder agricultural value chains. The initiative aims reform retrogressive agricultural regulations that deter rather than encourage such

According to Dr. Steven Were Omamo, AGRA’s Director of Policy and Advocacy, “The MIRA project will provide African Governments with access to high quality local and international technical assistance for identifying, prioritizing and reforming
specific agricultural regulations”. Current regulations often discourage private investment in small- and medium-sized agribusinesses that serve the needs of smallholder farmers.

The project will help build the capacity of African Government leaders and analysts to make better- informed, economically-robust assessments and
decisions about which regulations need to be reformed in order to facilitate increased private investment in smallholder value chains.

The MIRA project has four key objectives:
1. to strengthen African Governments’ demand for regulatory
reforms, by supporting efforts to identify and assess regulations that unintentionally limit private sector
investment in smallholder value chains;
2. to support African Governments’ efforts to reform regulations that limit private sector investment in smallholder value chains;
3. to promote reformed regulations to local and international private sector investors, in order to raise awareness about improved agribusiness-enabling environments in Africa;
3. and to enhance the capacity and commitment of African Governments to continuously review, assess and reform regulations that limit private sector investment in smallholder value chains.

It said that by the end of the project, three major outcomes are expected:
1. reformed agricultural policies and regulations creating more conducive
environments for private sector investment in local agribusinesses operating smallholder value chains
in five countries;
2. increased private sector investment in the “throughput capacity” of existing and new local agribusinesses – those supplying inputs to smallholders and/or purchasing farm outputs from them;
3. and at least 25 significant policy or regulatory reforms that induce measurable increases in private sector investment in local agribusinesses operating in smallholder agrifood
value chains.

Sourced from Vanguard News Paper.

CAADP Agricultural Technical Vocational Education and Training (ATVET )

Five success factors of large-scale skills development in agriculture

In 2012, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Planning and Coordinating Agency (NPCA) launched a new project, “Promotion of Technical Vocational Education and Training for the Agricultural Sector in Africa (CAADP ATVET)” with the support of the German Government through GIZ. The project is expected to have a total duration of six to seven years. In a first two-year phase (2012/2013) the programme will work at a continental level (NPCA) and in two pilot countries (Ghana and Kenya). The aim will be to develop and implement market-oriented qualification measures, as well as coherent concepts to incorporate agricultural technical vocational training components into the national education systems. The expansion of value chain approaches in development strategies calls for the adequate qualification both of the value chain actors and the implementing institutions.


CAADP ATVET helps to create more coherent policies for agricultural education and training in Africa, particularly for women and young people who are the most valuable asset for Africa’s future. CAADP ATVET fills a thematic gap in the current CAADP process and has a strong potential to contribute to achieving the CAADP goals of agricultural sector growth, generating rural income and reducing poverty.

The project objective is to integrate agricultural vocational and technical education into the CAADP process of selected countries. The project focuses on three support areas, namely:

– Knowledge management and survey of approaches, sharing of information and best practices of ATVET in Africa;

– Anchoring of ATVET in the African Union (AU) structures and in the CAADP country processes;

– Developing and assessing of pilot qualification measures for farmers, the youth, employed persons and service providers at a national level.

Enhancing agricultural qualification through CAADP ATVET will eventually improve the job perspectives in African agricultural value chains. Business and technical skills and abilities which meet private sector needs are important to further promote the implementation of national agricultural investment plans at country level.

For whom and with whom?

ATVET is mainstreamed in the CAADP process. The bilateral GIZ programmes in the implementing countries offer technical support to the countries. The aim is to design appropriate measures to address the gaps in the vocational and technical education within the agricultural investment plans with the cooperation of the CAADP team and agricultural private sector associations, individual private companies, farmer organisations, training service providers and development partners.

Source -

Just improving farm yield is not enough to lift families and communities out of poverty

Very insightful points raised

Foundation for Young Farmers

Beyond the farm: promoting agribusiness as a way out of poverty

Just improving farm yield is not enough to lift families and communities out of poverty – we also need to change the systems in which smallholders operate

cashew nut factory mozambique

Lucas Domingo, a worker at Condor Nuts, a cashewnut factory near Nampula in the north of Mozambique. Photograph: Henner Frankenfeld/Technoserve

If we’re serious about ending poverty and feeding a growing planet, it’s imperative that we focus on the 2 billion people who live and work on small farms in the developing world. Often, the best way to support these smallholders has less to do with things they can do to improve their farms and more to do with the systems in which they operate.

What happens at the farm level is important, and farmers need access to knowledge that enhance productivity inputs and tools. But to create sustainable growth in agricultural industries…

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