Good bye to Hunger

By Sister Nora McNamara mshr                                                                           Posted September 2017

The farmers reporting on the yam-sett project in Igala, Idoma and Tiv, in Benue and Kogi States, said it in these few amazing words:  “This is bringing an end to hunger.”  It is not often that any project brings such a positive reaction, but this is what the participants say about the AYMT project.

What is AYMT?  It is Adapted Yam Mini-sett Technique, a system of seed-yam production familiar to many of us, in which the mother-yam is cut into pieces and planted to produce yam seeds for planting in the coming year.  Having enough seeds has always been a difficulty for farmers, as well as problems with pests and diseases.  The AYMT helps deal with these.  Farmers taking part in the training have no hesitation in saying that this has changed their lives.  Not only that, but people have found that even a small portion of land gives a big return on investment, and orphans and widows can use it successfully and so work their way out of poverty.

It is important that the technique be learned correctly.  Cutting the sett is familiar, dipping is the new part.  A yam of about 1 kg, long and thin, is cut into 20 pieces, each about 50 grams; each piece must have its skin.  The pieces are then treated in a dip – an insecticide which has no residual effects – dried in the shade, and planted in a ridge.  From this the farmer gets 20 or more viable yam seeds. 

The method also protects Biodiversity.  The “Ameh” yam developed in recent years certainly helped to make the yam farm more productive, but it has disadvantages.  It has low market demand, it does not store well, is hard to pound and changes colour.  But AYMT enables farmers to use traditional, valued varieties and produce a far greater harvest.


Initial doubts
Some observers originally critical of the method changed their minds in 2015 when they saw the outcome.  This was helped by 10 Opinion Leaders, four women and six men, who carried out the AYTM on their own initiative, having participated in the training earlier in the year.  Demonstrations close to the road have attracted the attention of passersby, and taxi-drivers have become so interested that they look out for yam varieties as they travel around.  A sure sign of acceptance is when nick-names are given to an item concerned or the person who introduces it.  Gabriel Ada, director of the method in Idoma and Tiv, has become known as the “seed-master.”


Mr Gabriel Ada, “Seedmaster”

The problem of civil unrest caused mainly by cattle herders has forced many inhabitants to relocate to areas outside their own homes.  This situation however can have an up-side, as new-comers to places have been introduced to AYMT. 

The method was developed by Sr Nora McNamare and Professor Stephen Morse at DDS (Diocesan Development Services) Idah.  It is highly participative, with the hundreds of farmers who do the training giving their own expert comments, leading to further improvements.  Their question now is:  how can we make this known more widely?

The harvest

All this from the dedicated work of many people, aimed at ending poverty. Number 1 Sustainable Development Goal, being implemented without any fuss and in a highly sustainable manner. 

Sister Nora McNamara is an Irish Holy Rosary Sister and author of several books on Development which can be seen on the website under Development.