Big, resistant and a licensing ‘first’

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One expert calls this “historic”: A new cowpea variety is on its way to Nigerian smallholders through a licensing agreement facilitated by our Foundation and New Markets Lab (NML). Bred by academics and supplied by a local company, the variety meets many important requirements. 

Nigeria’s Joseph Sarwuan Tarka University (JSTU), formerly ‘University of Agriculture, Markudi’) has a strong crop breeding program. Scientists there work closely with colleagues at the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA). One result of this cooperation is FUAMPEA 3, recently approved by the National Variety Release Committee (NVRC). This new cowpea looks set to improve farmers' yields, and thus bolster food security. 

FUAMPEA 3 arrived barely a year after President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Plant Variety Protection Bill. This law aims to ensure recognition and proper remuneration for breeders who develop varieties that increase productivity. 

As our Nigerian Program Manager Isaiah Gabriel emphasizes, the Foundation is constantly driving for smallholders to be able to use such new varieties. “The main route must be through local seed companies”, he comments. “Together with NML, we help these companies gain access to university and public varieties.” For FUAMPEA 3, Value Seeds Limited is the private sector signatory of the necessary licensing agreement. NML and our Foundation facilitated this agreement as part of the AVISA project. International Legal Specialist Adron Naggayi represented NML** at the signing ceremony.  

Addressing participants, IITA’s Professor Lucky Omoigui called the licensing “a huge accomplishment”.  He congratulated JSTU and Value Seeds. Omoigui stated that this is the first time “a citadel of higher learning is giving a license to a private company in Nigeria to commercialize seed”. He went on to describe the new cowpea’s valuable features. Out of 28 recent varieties, FUAMPEA 3 is the only one with the big brown seeds preferred in southern Nigeria. 

A farmers’ delight

JSTU scientist Dr. Teryima Iolarmen went into further detail. The new cowpea could yield 2.5 tonnes per hectare, he declared. Vitally, it is resistant to the parasitic weeds Striga gesnerioides and Alectra vogelii. FUAMPEA 3 also tolerates diseases such as bacterial blight and Cercospora leaf spot. Iolarmen explained that these qualities make it a “farmers' delight”. 

Dr. Philip Ojo, Director-General of the National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC), described the license signing as “historical”. JSTU’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Richard Anande Kimbi sent a message via Bursar Emmanuel Timothy Ayan. He said that the university’s joy over the event “knows no bounds”. Sir George Zangir, President of Value Seeds, spoke of his passion for the licensing agreement and commended the Foundation for the facilitation. Our Seeds2B team member Mojisola Olufemi replied as the moderator that we “will not relent from ensuring that smallholders get best-quality genetic material to enhance productivity and food security”.