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Yam: A Cash Crop in West Africa

Key takeaways What are the key takeaways from this working paper? Current yam production does not use technologies in terms of pest and disease control, and labor-saving and agronomic practices especially the mound seedbed type. Yam is produced more for sale than for home consumption; in both Nigeria and Ghana 60% of harvest, after discounting for seed, is sold and only 40% is consumed in the farmers’ households. The crop attracts a high price in the urban markets because it is patronized by high-income consumers. Producers work hard to produce so much yam, yet they live in penury. There is problem at the level of outlet for yam from the farm to urban markets. Policy interventions are needed to change the unfair situation; the first step is to empirically assess the marketing situation to determine if the yam traders are enriched by the context which impoverishes the farmers and to identify measures which if implemented will enable all participants in the yam value chain, the producers as well as the traders, to be equitably compensated for their efforts. Yam is widely produced with purchased inputs, especially hired labor. But high and increasing farm wages and scarcity of hired labor constitute a critical impediment for yam production expansion. Farmers surveyed reported that they stored yam to sell during planting season to pay high for hired labor for seedbed preparation and weeding. A farm management study is needed to assess how much of the cash proceed from sales of yam is left after paying hired labor. The hired labor situation calls for investment in measures to develop mechanical labor-saving technologies and to change certain labor-intensive agronomic practices such as the mound seedbed type. Yam responds positively to the application of purchased inputs in terms of yield and land area expansion, which shows that the potential for improvement is high if R and D measures are implemented to improve production technologies. It shows that farmers will readily adopt new yam production technologies which can solve felt needs and drive down production costs. The potential for improvement in yam production through information exchange between Nigeria and Ghana is high. Such information could be generated through comparative analyses of differences in yam production practices between the two countries and disseminated through exchange visits between yam producers of the two countries in the form of farmer-to-famer extension methods.