Aeroponics Technology Has Revolutionized Mass Production of Yam Seeds in Nigeria & Ghana


The Yam Improvement for Incomes and Food Security in West Africa, Phase II (YIIFSWA II) project seeks to develop and prove a functional, commercial seed yam seed system in Nigeria and Ghana to benefit smallholder farmers through timely and affordable access to high-quality seed yam tubers of improved varieties.

YIIFSWA-II is based on a three-pronged approach:

  1. Demonstrate the profitable business opportunity in using the Aeroponics System (AS) for basic seed yam production;

  2. Provide technical and business advisory services for private seed companies to engage in the production of high-quality basic seed yam using AS;

  3. Increase the supply of certified seed yam tubers from vibrant and profitable seed entrepreneurs (SE) at an affordable price to aware yam producers.

Yam production was in decline throughout the West African yam belt for a variety of reasons caused by persistent reliance on the indigenous methods for cultivating and storing this prevalent staple food in this part of the world. Since yam was domesticated by man to become a farm crop, modern scientific research has never been deployed to assure a wider availability of this food staple through increased production and elimination of waste through spoilage estimated to be as high as 30% of total harvest. It is exciting to know that ample sums of research funds committed to the yam crop have achieved some breakthroughs in a marked increase in harvest potential and availability of yam species and varieties that have a longer shelf life after harvest. In short, yam farming can be made to become a lucrative business even to rural dwellers with little investment capital.

YIIFSWA II was inspired by the quest to utilize the spinoff from improvement in the new yam-seed production technology – aeroponics – to assure income security for the millions of West Africans inhabiting the yam belt of the sub-continent. Growing yam vines with aeroponics in a controlled environment yield three materials for propagating the yam tuber on the farm. 2nd, the vines can grow tubers that can be used as yam seeds. They can also grow bulbils at the vine’s nodes.  3rd, the actively growing vine can be clipped and separated into nodes with paired leaves. It is incredible that each of these three methods provides a reliable source of developing a healthy yam tuber, either for the dinner table or to use as a seed yam for the next planting season.

Dr. Norbert Maroya is head of the research team that uses aeroponics to grow select yam species and varieties for growing plantable seeds in the fields by farmers. Outcome of research cheapens the cost of producing large amounts of yam tubers.

Running entirely on its own different track, another significant breakthrough has been made in using bags to plant yams rather than the age-old practice of using plowed farm lots. Yam cultivation in bags has shown some clear advantages over the traditional methods. When these two breakthroughs are combined, both the quality and quantity of yam production per acre shall increase immensely.

With increased production of high-quality yam in Nigeria and Ghana, these West African countries can open up yet another vista for the export of agricultural products that can be used for food or industrial manufacture. Aeroponics technology has helped to reveal the otherwise hidden agricultural potential of the yam tuber. The government at all levels must now make this wealth-creation conduit via yam farming to be within reach of those who need it. To ignite this fire, seed yams produced by aeroponics should be subsidized while the subsidy of imported petrol and diesel should be stopped immediately.