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May 27, 2024

Future, Economic Benefits of Yam Farming in Nigeria

Yam (Dioscorea spp) is a staple food in many parts of Africa, Asia, and the Americas and holds high economic importance, particularly in Nigeria. 

With various species cultivated, including Dioscorea rotundata, Dioscorea alata, and Dioscorea cayenensis, Nigeria is the world’s largest yam producer, producing about 81% for Africa, and contributing to 70-76% of the global yam production annually.

In 2023, Nigeria produced over 18.3 million tonnes of yam from 1.5 million hectares of land. Benue state is the highest contributor, responsible for 51% of the total yam cultivation in the country, followed by Taraba, contributing about 13%. 

According to a study by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), yam is the most widely harvested crop in Nigeria after cassava, maize, sorghum, and cowpea. However, yam production is substantially short and can not meet the growing demand at its present level of use. 

One of the major problems faced by yam farmers is the high cost and limited availability of yam seeds. The cost of procuring quality seeds affects farmers’ ability to scale their production. Furthermore, the supply of these seeds is irregular, and this makes it more difficult for farmers to access.

Additionally, the high cost of labour required for harvesting and marketing poses a challenge. The manual labor-intensive nature of yam farming contributes to the high operational costs. Investment in mechanization and government support aimed at reducing labour costs could lessen this burden on farmers.

Also, yam cultivation in Nigeria is plagued by various pests and diseases, including termites, millipedes, crickets, nematodes, yam mosaic virus, and yam rots. These biological threats not only diminish yields but also compromise the quality of the harvested tubers.

To address these challenges;

1.  Programmes aimed at subsidizing the cost of yam seeds and improving their accessibility to farmers must be prioritized. This could involve the establishment of seed banks and the implementation of subsidized seed distribution programs.

2.  Investment in mechanization and modern farming techniques is important to reduce labour costs and improve efficiency in yam production. This may include the provision of machinery loans and training programs for farmers on mechanized farming practices.

3.  Research and extension services should be intensified to develop and disseminate disease-resistant yam varieties, along with effective pest management practices. Collaboration between researchers, farmers, and extension agents may facilitate the adoption of innovative solutions to combat pests and diseases effectively.

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