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Saturday, June 10, 2023

GM cowpea: AATF trains seed certification officers

The African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), in partnership with the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR) and the National Agricultural Seeds Council of Nigeria, trained 20 seed certification officers of the Council and 15 technical staff of seed companies on seed production, sampling techniques and certification as the country’s farmers begin planting genetically modified cowpea known as SAMPEA 20-T.

AATF training
Participants at the meeting (Prof Mohammed Ishiyaku 5th from left, followed by Dr Issoufou Kollo, Dr Ishiak Khalid)

SAMPEA 20-T, a new cowpea variety, is the second genetically modified crop approved for planting in the country following the approval granted for Bt Cotton in 2019.

The training is the second by the partnership in efforts to bring the nation’s seed certification officers up to date with the latest technology in seed testing especially as it relates to identification and testing for the presence of the modified gene in a plant or seed.

AATF trained the first batch of seed certification officers in 2019, the 2021 round of training is the first time the Seed certification officers are joined by technical officers from the three seed companies licensed to market SAMPEA 20-T.

Speaking at the event, Dr Issoufou Kollo, AATF Regional Representative for West Africa said the Foundation was dedicating resources to strengthening the capacity of Nigerian seed certification officers by equipping them with the latest knowledge and techniques to ensure they carry out their duties diligently, adding that the partnership was also helping to educate seed company technical staff  on the effective agricultural practices that can help them become more productive in their seed production activities.

He said that a lot of work and time went into the development and release of SAMPEA 20-T and as such the seed certification officers and seed companies must ensure that Nigerian farmers reap maximum benefit from planting it.

Opening the training, Prof. Mohammed Ishiyaku, Executive Director, IAR, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, said that the training is timely as it will prepare the national seed certification officers to effectively monitor and regulate the nation-wide deployment of genetically modified crop varieties in the country.

Prof. Ishiyaku said that the training also offers the officers, and the seed companies, the opportunity to interact with the Pod Borer Resistant Cowpea project scientists and chart a way forward for the nation’s seed sector.

Dr Ishiak Khalid, Director of Seed Certification, NASC, said that the training facilitated by AATF would position the seed certification officers to play relevant roles as Nigeria begins the planting of genetically modified crops.

“For us at NASC, this is another opportunity for us to learn and interact with breeders on what to look out for, when and how to carry out the check when our officers go to the field.”

He enjoined the officers to take the training seriously in preparation for the task ahead.

The two-day training was attended by officers from the North-East geopolitical zone of Nigeria and officers from Techni, Maina and GoldAgric Seed Companies .

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