Burkina Faso has released two improved cowpea varieties for better nutrition to women and children, and boost the incomes of farmers.

The two varieties, IT99K-573-2-1 and IT98K-205-8, were developed by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, and had undergone participatory varietal selection with farmers in the central and northern region of Burkina Faso.

Local farmers and researchers selected the varieties from a basket of options after a two-year trial, thanks to funds from the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said IITA, in a statement.

The varieties being selected are early maturing and high yielding and are also resistant to parasitic weed that limits the yield of cowpea.

IITA Project Coordinator for the Appropriate Varieties of Early maturing Cowpea for Burkina Faso project, Dr Haruki Ishikawa, said, “These varieties mature in about 60 days as opposed to local varieties that mature in about 80-90 days.”

Cowpea is an important crop in Burkina Faso as it provides food and cash for farmers, and fodder for livestock.

Most local varieties in the country record a yield of between 400 kg and 600 kg per hectare.

“But the new varieties have a potential yield of 2170Kg/ha,” Ishikawa said.

A scientist with the Japan International Centre for Agricultural Sciences, Dr. Satoru Muranaka, who initiated the project while working for IITA, noted that the improved varieties offer a lot of benefits to farmers.

Muranaka said, “For instance, because these varieties are early maturing, they will help cowpea farmers to escape from drought. Also farmers now have a crop that they can harvest early, consume, and sell to generate income when other crops are still on the field. Such incomes help farmers to pay school fees for their children.

“Again, with protein content of about 20 per cent, cowpea provides a good option to tackle malnutrition in local communities.”

A cowpea breeder with INERA, Dr. Issa Drabo, further explained that the early maturing characteristics of the varieties meant that the varieties could be successfully grown in the drier regions with low rainfall of between 400mm and 800mm.

The AVEC-BF project is a research for development project that aims to disseminate improved varieties.

The project is developing new dissemination system for cowpea that combines selection of appropriate varieties for the region, community seed system, and farmer field school activities with the ultimate goal of improving access of farmers to improved varieties and technologies.

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