Tratado Internacional sobre los Recursos Fitogenéticos para la Alimentación y la Agricultura

BSF Project - Third Cycle

Sustainable utilization of cowpea genetic resources for enhanced food security and poverty alleviation in the dry savannah of regions Northern Ghana
Where are we working?
Cowpea is an affordable, protein-rich food relied on by over 70% of Ghana’s population. However, it is severely threatened by the parasitic witchweed (Striga gesnerioides), which has led to yield losses of 80-100%. Coupled with drought and other disease stresses in major production regions of northern Ghana, this has gravely affected the food security of vulnerable farming communities.
In order to identify striga-, drought- and disease-resistant cowpea varieties, this Benefit-sharing Fund project is using marker-assisted selection, as well as participatory field trials in multiple locations in combination with consumer evaluation protocols. In this way it contributes to food security, poverty reduction and prevention of malnutrition among children and pregnant women in particular.

What are we doing?
  • Phenotypic screening and genetic assessment of 120 recombinant inbred lines (RILs) of cowpea to establish 30 cowpea genotypes for stable Striga resistance and drought tolerance evaluations in different agro-ecological zones;
  • Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) and SSR marker analysis of 120 cowpea RILs to determine multi-race Striga resistance status;
  • Multi-location trials with 100 farmers in Striga hotspots in different agro-ecological zones of Ghana using 30 RILs and germplasm from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA);
  • On-farm trials repeated with 300 farmers in all Striga hotspots;
  • Assessment of resistance to diseases and pests carried out;
  • Identification, documentation and conservation in the genebank of University of Cape coast of the seven most preferred Striga-resistant and rust, virus and drought tolerant cowpeas.

What has been achieved to date?
The developed recombinant inbred lines of cowpeas have been subject to marker-assisted selection, phenotyping, biochemical and field evaluation protocols to select Striga-resistant cowpeas for cultivation and for breeding purposes.
Rigorous farmer participatory field trials, consumer evaluation and final field inspection of the cowpeas had led to the identification and recommendation for approval and release of 7 improved cowpea varieties by the National Varietal Release and Registration Committee to the Minister of Food and Agriculture.
It is expected that cultivation and on-farm conservation of these improved Striga-resistant, drought-tolerant, early-maturing and high yielding cowpeas will increase production and farmers’ income by 60%. In addition, quality seed is being made available to both rural resource-poor farmers and consumers at affordable prices.
The SSR and SNP markers identified to be linked with Striga-resistance and seed size in cowpea constitute an innovative approach towards identification and selection of Striga-resistant cowpeas in breeding populations. By incorporating the SNP or SSR marker-assisted protocols, breeders will be able to fast-track the release of varieties by reducing the number of generations required to establish stable breeding lines.

Who has benefited?
More than 1000 resource poor farmers and over 15,000 children have already benefited from the availability and consumption of improved varieties of cowpea.
12 Agriculture Extension Officers have received on-farm training in cultivation and management of cowpea. 400 farmers (30% females) have been trained in the cultivation of Striga-resistant and drought tolerant cowpeas by way of Mother-Baby field trials, Farmer School and Farmer Field Day activities. More than 2000 prisoners are cultivating and consuming improved cowpea and 4 prison officers have been trained in supervision and guidance of prisoners in cowpea cultivation. 10 scientists, 6 crop officers from the Ministry of Agriculture and 3 seed production companies have benefitted from the overall findings of this project. The multidisciplinary approach to the project has brought together researchers, farmers, breeders, technicians, producers and governmental officials who exchanged approaches, perspectives and innovative solutions to current challenges.
Cowpea et al.
Window 2 - Immediate action projects
Region: Africa
Target Countries: Ghana
Implementing institution: University of Cape Coast

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