Cameroon, like other African countries relies on agriculture as a main economic activity, with livestock employing at least 30% of the country’s rural population. The livestock sector in Cameroon is crucial to its economic growth, food and nutrition security and job creation. Forages of African origin have been instrumental in the transformation of the livestock sector in tropical America, Australia, and East Asia. However, the potential of native forages to alleviate livestock feed shortage in Africa have been little explored.
In 2012, BecA-ILRI Hub initiated the ‘Climate-smart Brachiaria Program’ in partnership with NARS and development partners in Sub Saharan Africa. This program aims to increase livestock productivity through the provision of high quality and climate resilient Brachiaria grass.
Paul Ko Awono is an ABCF Fellow at BecA-ILRI Hub from the Institute of Agricultural Research for Development (IRAD), Cameroon. He’s conducting his research to ‘Improve Brachiaria seed production technology for Africa’ under the supervision of Dr. Sita Ghimire and Dr. Kingsley Etchu from BecA-ILRI Hub and IRAD, respectively.
His research involves collecting information about Brachiaria seed production system in North and Adamawa regions, evaluating agronomic performances of Brachiaria landraces and improved cultivars, and examining the quality of Brachiaria seeds produced by farmers in Cameroon. Brachiaria seed is traded as a cash crop, it therefore improves farmers’ income in Cameroon.
Paul’s research revealed that the size of the farmlands dedicated to Brachiaria production by a farmer were smaller (0.25 to 0.5 ha) in the North region as compared to Adamawa region (1 to 15 ha). His research also indicated that Brachiaria seed yield was low in both regions (≤ 300 kg/ha) and the major constraints of Brachiaria production in both regions were weed infestation, wandering animals, and lack of market for Brachiaria seeds. Additionally, Brachiaria landraces were earlier in maturity and were better adapted to harsh environmental conditions than improved cultivars. His research also uncovered that Brachiaria seeds samples produced by farmers in North and Adamawa region were of variable qualities (poor to excellent) and some seeds samples were superior for germination than improved seeds.
Paul recognizes that the ABCF fellowship provided him with several opportunities; he learnt more about writing research proposals, setting-up agronomic trials, data collection, data analysis and interpretation. He also learnt several techniques related to seed quality determination in the laboratory and greenhouse settings. Paul commented “The training and mentorship I have received at BecA is very important for me, because it has helped me to improve my scientific skills, and I am sure that it will help me to improve Brachiaria seed production in Cameroon and farmers’ incomes.” He adds “Through my research, I hope to increase the quality and quantity of Brachiaria seeds harvested in Cameroon and improve the Brachiaria market in Cameroon and hence improve farmer livelihoods”.