How can we ensure that health, food systems, and sustainable agricultural systems mutually reinforce one another?

Challenges in yam systems for improved livelihoods in West Africa

Basement Room A-122 September 7, 2017 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm

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Emmanuel Frossard1, Robert Asiedu2, Anne Floquet3, Innocent Kiba1, Denis Cornet4, Gian Nicolay5

1ETH Zurich, Switzerland; 2IITA, Nigeria; 3University Abomey Calavi, Benin; 4CIRAD, Guadeloupe, Antilles; 5FiBl, Frick, Switzerland

Yams are tuber crops essential for food security in West Africa and other parts of the tropics. They can be a significant source of income for actors involved in the yam chain value (producers, traders, processors). Yams are also an important part of West African cultures where they are present in many rituals and ceremonies. However, yam systems are facing many challenges. This crop is traditionally grown without input as the first crop after long-term fallow or natural vegetation affecting the remaining biodiversity and resulting in soil degradation. Yams yields are much lower than their potential yields due to low soil fertility, bad seed quality, and inadequate crop management. Yams markets are complex and often not transparent. Finally, probably because it is a traditional crop supposedly known by each and everyone, there is very little to no policy support for yams be it for agricultural extension or for market development. The overall goal of the session will be to revisit actual yam research priorities and policies in the countries of the West African yam belt. The specific aims of the session will be first to discuss a vision for a prosperous yam economy making a sustainable use of resources (sedentary yam systems promoting the protection of remaining forested patches and limiting as much as possible emissions to the environment) and improving livelihood of actors working along the yam chain value. Following that, innovations addressing these challenges, but also “missing links” in research and factors impeding the transformation of research results in innovations coming to scale will be discussed. This session will include scientists working in the YAMSYS project, a r4d project assessing options for improved soil fertility in yam systems in West Africa, and (if funding allows) other yam specialists from IITA and CIRAD. The facilitation method to achieve these goals within the session will be developed at a later stage.