Project team

Robert Asiedu

Dr. Robert Asiedu is the Director, Research for Development, for IITA-West Africa. He also leads the Institute’s work on Biotechnology and Crop Improvement. He joined IITA in 1989 to work as a breeder of root and tuber crops, after a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Mexico where he worked on the transfer of useful traits to wheat from its wild relatives. He provides institutional oversight to the AfricaYam project from amongst others.
Dr. Asiedu has supervised or coordinated collaborative R4D projects with NARIs in Africa, published widely in international peer-reviewed journals, and contributed to the formal release of several high-yielding and pest-resistant yam varieties by national research partners in Nigeria and Ghana. Together with university lecturers, he also co-supervised the thesis research on root and tuber crops of many postgraduate students, mostly in Africa.
He holds a PhD degree in Agricultural Science from the University Of Adelaide, Australia, and a BSc Honors degree from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana. A Chartered Biologist, he is a member of the Society of Biology and the International Society for Tropical Root Crops.

Patrick Adebola

Dr. Patrick Adebola is a Plant Breeder/Geneticist. He joined IITA-Abuja, Nigeria as Project Leader of the AfricaYam Project. Dr. Adebola oversees and coordinates the project activities in the four target countries. He obtained his BSc, MSc and PhD degrees from the University of Ilorin, Nigeria in 1987, 1990 and 2003 respectively. He also obtained a Master degree in Business Leadership (MBL) from the Graduate School of Business Leadership, University of South Africa in 2014. Dr. Adebola has over 20 years’ experience in plant breeding research and community engagement in West and Southern Africa and had managed and supervised several international projects and networks.
Before joining IITA, Dr. Adebola worked at the Africa Rice Center as the Deputy Director General for the Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI), Liberia in 2016. He was a Research Team Manager and Head of the Plant Breeding Division at the Agricultural Research Council, ARC-VOPI, South Africa (2005 – 2016). He also previously worked at the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria as a research scientist and rose to the position of Assistant Chief Research Officer and Program Manager Biotechnology (1993-2004). He was a postdoctoral fellow (2004-2005) in the department of Botany, University of Fort Hare, South Africa and a recipient of the Rothamsted International Postdoctoral Fellowship hosted by the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA), Sand Hutton, York, United Kingdom during 2008-2010.

Asrat Amele

Asrat Asfaw Amele joined IITA-Abuja, Nigeria, as a Yam Breeder. He obtained a BSc degree in Plant Science from the former Alemaya Agricultural University (now Haromaya University), Ethiopia in 1995. He has an MSc degree in Plant Breeding and Genetics from CCS Haryana Agricultural University, Hissar, India. He obtained his PhD in Plant Breeding at Wageningen University, The Netherlands in 2011.
Before this appointment, he had been a Potato Breeder at the International Potato Center, sub-Sahara Africa Regional Program since 2012.

Michael Abberton

Michael Abberton is Head of the Genetic Resources Center, IITA, Ibadan, since August 2012. He obtained his B.Sc. in Botany and Ph.D. in plant cytogenetics from the University of Manchester and subsequently undertook postdoctoral research in molecular biology at the University of St. Andrews. Following two years working on coffee germplasm improvement in Malawi he joined the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research (IGER), Aberystwyth, UK in 1993.
For a number of years he carried out research and breeding in forage legumes and became Head of the Plant Genetics and Breeding Department at IGER. Following merger with Aberystwyth University in 2008 [creating the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS)] he became Professor of Public Good Plant Breeding and Director of International Development.

Lava Kumar

Lava Kumar is the Head of the Germplasm Health Unit, and Virology and Molecular Diagnostics Unit at IITA. His research programs are focused on (a) protecting germplasm health from pathogens and pests; (b) tackling virus diseases of IITA crops (cassava, yam, banana/plantain, cowpea, soybean, and maize), cacao, and vegetables; (c) developing convenient diagnostic tools for identification of pathogens (viruses, bacteria, fungi, and phytoplasma), pests and mycotoxins (aflatoxins); and (d) conducting training courses and workshops in plant disease diagnostics and control, and also higher degree training, leading graduate and postgraduate students to M.Sc. or Ph.D. degrees.
He has been leading several R4D projects executed in collaboration with universities, NARS, and ARIs.

Kolade Olufisayo Atinuke

Kolade Olufisayo Atinuke is a postdoctoral fellow (Yam Disease Phenotyping Specialist) under the project Africa Yam: Enhancing Yam Breeding for Increased Productivity and Improved Quality in West Africa.
She holds a PhD (2013) and an MSc (1995) in Genetics from the University of Ibadan and a BSc in Botany from the University of Ilorin (1989).
In collaboration with IITA virologist, she coordinates the technical management of diseases scoring and evaluation of breeding material, also training national breeders in scoring and associated activities.
Prior to her appointment, she worked as a Research Administrative Manager with the Africa Rice Center Ibadan station (2013-2015); and as a Research Assistant in AfricaRice, Cotonou, Benin Republic (2008-2013). She was a Research Associate at the Bioscience Center of IITA (2004-2008); Research Supervisor at the Cassava Breeding Unit (1994-2004); Research Supervisor at the then Tuber, Roots and Plantain Improvement Program, IITA (1990-1994) and was a youth corper (NYSC) (1989-1990).
She was a DSF fellow (BEST: Bourses d’échanges scientifiques et technologiques) at the Institute of Research and Development IRD, Montepellier, France (2011-2012 where she contributed to the research on the identification of a resistance gene to the Rice yellow mottle virus. She is presently an AWARD (African Women in Agricultural Research and Development) fellow.

Olubunmi Simon Olukotun

Olubunmi Simon Olukotun is the project Administrator. He joined IITA-Ibadan as Project Administrator of the AfricaYam Project. He liaises with the Project Manager to ensure that project activities are completed within time, within budget. Develops and maintains plans to support the AfricaYam Project, including analysis of tasks, schedules and resources needed.
He obtained his B.Sc. in Political Science and MBA degrees from the University of Ilorin, Nigeria. Olubunmi is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management (CIPM) and has professional trainings in Project Management.
He started his career at the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN) in year 2000 as an Administrative Officer II and over the years rose to the post of Chief Administrative Officer in the same institute. He previously worked as Personal Assistant to Executive Directors of CRIN, during which, he assisted in coordinating the Executive Directors office and provided necessary assistance for the smooth running of the institute. His duties in the past years requires, meticulous handling and keen ability to convey complex ideas clearly. He has also prepared dozens of official reports on internally and externally funded projects.

Project Administrator:  Dr J.C. Uneke – Director, EBSU-DRIC (Directorate of Research, Innovation & Commercialisation)
Breeders    –                 Prof Happiness O. Oselebe (Project Coordinator)
Prof E. O. Okporie
Prof I. U. Obi;
Pathologist:                  Mr. A. Nwogbaga
Research Assistant:      Ozi Friday Ugadu
Technicians:                  Mr Emma Owoh
Mr Kelechi Nwancho
Project Accountant:      Mr John Nwankwo
Yam farmers & Cooperative Contacts:

  • Engr Friday Chukwu
  • Mr Eguji Sylvanus
  • Mr Francis Agbo

Dr. E. C Nwachukwu- NRCRI, PI/Project leader
Dr. J. Onyeka – NRCRI, Co-PI (Pathology)
Dr. J. E Obidiegwu- NRCRI, Co-PI (Breeding and Genetics)
Mr Chimela Ogidi- Field Technician
Ms Chidinma Nwachukwu- Laboratory / Field Technologist
Mrs. Elvis Chinenye – Project Accountant

Dr Kouakou Amani Michel – Yam Breeder
Dr Nzué Boni – Lead of Root and Tubers Program
Dr Dibi Konan – Plant physiologist
Mr Yao Guy Fernand – Soil scientist
Moyabi Gnanabé – Technician
Coulibaly Dogoba – Technician
Zamblé Tchambi – Technician
Koutouan Tchimon – Technician
Essis Brice Sidoine – Pathologist
Dr Zohouri Goli Pierre – Pathologist
Kouamé Brou – Climatologist
Mely Jacqueline – Accountant

Emmanuel Chamba, PhD – Breeder
Emmanuel Amponsah Adjei, MSc – Breeder
Alhassan Sayibu – Submitted MSc thesis – Principal Technical Officer
Ansaah Freda Agyapong, BSc – Technician
Sayibu Abukari, BSc – Chief Technical Officer
A S Alhassan, Diploma Agric – Technician
Ibrahim Sayibu, Diploma Agric, – Technician
Samuel Makukibe, BSc- Technician
Benjamin Kolan, BSc – National Service

Alexandre Anigbe (Benin)

Project title: Determination for Benin five white yam cultivars of the average size of tuber minisett suitable for seeds yam and edible tubers production

Yam is an important crop that contributes to food security and poverty alleviation in Benin. Unfortunately, its production is subject to various constraints including lack of seeds. The aim of this study is to identify the appropriate minisett sizes for yam seed and edible tubers production in some yam varieties. For the study, five cultivars including one hybrid (Dr-A5-2003) and four popular varieties (Labôkô, Môrôkôrou, Kpagninan and Yaassi) were used. The trial was installed in a completely randomized block device with three replicates and the collected data were analyzed by the descriptive statistic. The highest germination rate (90.13%) is obtained with the minisett of 150g used as seed with the variety Kpagninan. The number of tubers harvested per mound varied from 1 to 11 in Kpagninan with a coefficient of variation of 118%. Dr-A5-2003 presented for the minisetts of 100g and 250g maximum yields of 35t/ha and 40t/ha respectively. It is followed by Yaassi which gives for only 50g of minisetts a maximum yield of 31t/ha. 50g minisetts is recommended for the production of yam seed in evaluated cultivars. The minisetts of 100, 150 and 200g in Môrokôrou are more suitable for the production of tubers of sizes between 500g and 1kg. 150 g of minisetts responds better in Labôkô and Yaassi for this category of tuber. In Dr-A5-2003, Yaassi and Labôkô, the minisetts of 100, 150, 200 and 250g can produce tubers weighing more than 1kg. We recommend that the results of this study be used by seed growers and managers of agricultural extension services in order to put in place an effective policy for the production of yam seeds and edible tubers for the benefit of producers, traders and consumers.

Myriame Dansi (Benin)

Status of white yam (D. rotundata) diversity and possibilities of its use in a participatory varietal selection program at Bassila, a district of northern Benin

Recent Benin yam production zones redefinition study identified the district of Bassila as the best for yam production and breeding. Yam in this zone is also the major food crop and is consumed two to three times a day. However its production is facing some difficulties among with climate variability, pests and diseases (mainly nematodes and mealybugs). Scientific research is called to develop new and well performing varieties and this can be achieved only with the use of existing genetic resources. To assess the diversity, distribution and extent of white yam varieties at Bassila and to document the farmers’ varietal preference criteria and desired crosses for use in breeding programs, 12 villages randomly selected were surveyed using participatory research appraisal methods (group survey; individual interviews; fields visit) and tools (questionnaires). The groups consisted of at least 20 producers per village and a total of 240 individual interviews were carried out. Subject to synonymy, 76 yam cultivars were recorded. Their number varied from 13 to 29 per village (16 on average) and from 1 to 12 per household. For various reasons well documented, many varieties are being or abandoned. The rate of variety loss varied across villages from 7.69% to 48.28% (22.18% on average). Market value (76.8% of respondents), taste (64.8% of respondents), productivity (62.4% of respondents), poundability and quality of the pounded yam (34.4% of responses), earliness (32% of respondents) and post-harvest storage aptitude (15% respondents) were the major varietal selection or preference criteria. From farmers’ perceptions, Wouroutani and Katala are two key local varieties that should be involved in yam breeding programs. Most (96%) of the farmers in the surveyed area ignore the existence with yam of sexual reproduction leading to botanical seeds that can germinate in the nature to generate new clones. In a participatory way, farmers that were made aware suggested seven (7) crossing based on the sex and the characteristics (resistance to pests and diseases, high yield, food quality, etc.) of the preferred varieties. The results of this study should be exploited by breeders and NGOs in order to provide to farmers the improve varieties they are looking for to boost yam production at Bassila and in Benin.

Cherifatou Iralakaza (Benin)

Analysis of the yam seed system in the district of Bassila and assessment of different mediums for seed yam production with Laboko using “Vine cutting” technique

Lack of seeds is an important factor that hinder yam (Dioscorea rotundata) production at Bassila, a district of northern Benin. To better understand this, 12 villages were surveyed. Data was collected using a semi-structured questionnaire with focus on production constraints, methods of obtaining, selecting and conserving seeds. Apart from the lack of quality seeds which is a major constraint, the other negative factors identified included the attack of the seeds by nematodes, mealybugs, and termites and the susceptibility of some varieties to drought and high soil moisture. Seeds for planting in a given year are generally retained from the harvest of the previous year (62% of responses), bought in the market (11. 25% of responses), donated by a neighbor (8.75 of responses) or exchanged (6.25 of responses). For the identification of medium suitable for vine cutting with variety Laboko, five media were tested. Different strategies are used to conserve seeds. 61.90% of producers conserved their seeds under shade in the fields. Comparative study of five culture media for vine cutting showed that the medium consisting of 2/3 of carbonized rice bran + 1/3 of river sand previously used by IITA is confirmed to be the best suitable and allows to obtain heavy, long and wide mini tubers, We recommend that the results of this study be used by seed growers and managers of agricultural structures in order to strengthen the yam seed system in Benin.

Roger Idossuo (Benin)

Agronomic performance of 12 local varieties and 4 hybrids of yam (D. rotundata) in four agro-ecological zones in Benin

Yam has a great potential for improving farmers’ incomes and addressing food insecurity in West Africa. In Benin, its production is facing many constraints among which the most important are related to the insufficient availability of highperforming genotypes adapted to various production areas. This study aims to identify good yam cultivars that are adapted to different regions of Benin. Thus, 12 popular landraces and 4 hybrids were evaluated in 4 areas (Abomey in the South, DassaZoumé in the Center, Bassilla and Djougou in the north) of Benin using Alpha Triplo Latice design with three repetitions. The vegetative development and yield parameters were collected at each site to evaluate genotypeenvironment interactions using R version 3.4.0 and Minitab 17 software. The results showed that the regions significantly influence the germination capacity of the seed yam. The agronomic observations and the descriptive analyzes revealed a high variability within the cultivars. Significant correlations at the 5% threshold between the diameter of the main stem and the length of the tubers harvested (r = 0.635, p = 0.021) indicated that the vegetative development of the plants influences their productivity. Multiple correspondence analysis and hierarchical ascending classification of qualitative variables showed significant heterogeneity among cultivars. Thus two large groups of cultivars are determined. In addition, variance analysis showed strong interaction between cultivars and sites. For example, the cultivar Labôkô and the hybrids Dr-A5-2003, Dr-A39-2003, Dr-A65-2003 are the most suitable in the region of Dassa-Zoumé and Dr-A39-2003 for the region of Abomey. For the northern regions (Bassila and Djougou), the cultivars Wouroutani, Hêapala, and Dr-A5-2003 and Dr-A21-2003 are the most interesting. These results have to be confirmed the next season and appropriate cultivars for each region have to be recommended for registration in National Catalogue and released for the benefit of users.

Eustache Atchikpa (Benin)

Flowering capacity, pollen viability and storability of ten cultivars involved in yam (Dioscorea rotundata) breeding for food security in Benin

Yam (Dioscorea spp) is a food crop that contributes to food security in Benin. However, its manual hybridization gives low success rate and the male and female flowers do not synchronize often. To correct these failures in yam breeding, a study on the floral intensity, pollen viability using Acetocarmine glycerol jelly test and the ability of pollen to be conserve (in refrigerator or freezer) were realized. Pollens from each cultivar were tested five times and the pollens in storage were tested every three days for one month. The data collected were analyzed with Minitab 17 and R version 4.3 software’s. From this study, cultivars Yaassi, Portchahabim, Wouroutani, Déba, Labôkô and Idôrô have a very abundant floral intensity. Yaassi (92.51%), Laboko (90.88%) and Portchahabim (87.51%) have viability rates above 80% and are recommended to be used as male parent in yam breeding programs. The microspore viability rate decreases steadily every 3 days during storage until it disappears in some cultivars from the 21st day. Pollens of cultivars Yaassi, Portchahabim, Idôrô and Labôkô are better preserved in both environments (refrigerator or freezer). However, the freezer has proven to be the most suitable environment for yam pollen storage for future use. We recommend that the results of this study should be considered by yam breeders in order to perform better manual hybridization in yam breeding

Joanice Tchenagnon (Benin)

Varietal diversity and possibilities for development of new white yam (Dioscorea rotundata) varieties in the district of Savalou

Yam has food, economic and cultural importance in Benin and particularly in the district of Savalou known as home of yam in central Benin. However, its production is nowadays affected by several constraints such as drought, climate variability, soil infertility, pests and diseases and the insufficiency of good performing cultivars. In order to develop new cultivars that will be easily adopted by farmers, this study was designed to document the existing varietal diversity and identify, in participatory way, the crossing possibilities taking into account the sex, the characteristics of the cultivars and the farmers’ cultivars preference criteria. Nine (9) randomly selected villages in the district of Savalou were surveyed using participatory research appraisal (household survey, group discussion, field visit, questionnaire, etc.). The number of cultivars recorded varied from 13 to 31 (20 on average) per village and from 2 to 12 per household (5 on average). Subject to synonymy, a total of 65 cultivars were found in the study area. The analysis of their distribution and extent revealed the disappearing of many cultivars (4.17% to 51.61% per village) and a production based almost only on a small number (average of 7 out of the 20 per village) of genotypes cultivated by many households and over large areas. The farmers’ preference and selection criteria were documented and prioritized with yield, poundability, early maturity, taste and market value as the most important. A total of 42 crossing were proposed by the farmers. The results will be of high utility for yam breeding program in Benin.

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