The AfricaYam annual review and planning meeting took place at the IITA Cotonou station, Benin Republic between the 14th to 18th of March 2016 and drew participants from project partners in Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Japan, USA and UK who gathered to review the progress made in the previous year and to chart a new course for achievement of the project goals.
Dr. Manuele Tamo; an Entomologist and IITA Benin Country representative delivered the opening remarks and described the task as challenging as he delivered the opening remarks on behalf of Dr. Robert Asiedu who he described as the ‘‘the biggest yam fanatic’’. He further emphasized that yam is a unique crop and the AfricaYam team is fortunate to be working on a crop where demand exceeds supply. Dr. Tamo expressed gratitude to BMGF for supporting yam breeding programs in West Africa and advised that the project needs to be prepared for climate change as we plan our work in developing improved varieties for farmers. He challenged the project to find solutions to the yam tuber beetle problem which has resulted in some farmer’s field being abandoned in Ghana.
The meeting featured the inauguration of the project’s Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) which consists of seasoned research professionals who will provide technical oversight to the project. The TAC expressed that they were impressed with the progress made so far and their willingness to support the project by bringing their expertise into play on the AfricaYam project. Members of the TAC consist of;
Dr. David Marshall (James Hutton Institute (JHI), UK; expert in bioinformatics, data management and extensive experience in crop research.
Prof. Eric Danquah West Africa Centre for Crop Improvement (WACCI), Ghana with outstanding achievements in plant breeding in the private and public sector and experience in developing technologies to improve the livelihood of farmers.
Dr. Carlos Iglesias Syngenta seeds, USA; who brings extensive experience in plant breeding, genetics and seed development. Other members of the TAC are representatives of IITA and BMGF.
The TAC members nominated Dr. David Marshall to Chair the committee while Prof. Eric Danquah will serve as Vice-chairman of the committee. The TAC emphasized that the next generation of yam breeders will require critical training on data handling and use of breeding software. Partners were encouraged to leverage in-country funding for training of in-service plant breeders and related personnel to support the capacity building efforts being made through AfricaYam project.