Friday, July 31, 2009

The Bluffton News-Banner


Bill Horan’s about to get an education, even as he teaches others.

Horan is the educator for agriculture with the Purdue Extension office in Wells County. He will be going to Nigeria next month to teach members of that nation's agriculture ministry how to better store cowpeas.

That sounds rather mundane. It’s only when you realize what the crop — also called field beans in the United States — means to Africa's food supply that you realize how important the task is.

Horan and three other Purdue Extension educators will be making the trip Aug. 6-21. They'll arrive in Nigeria Aug. 6; Horan and two Africans with him will visit five states.

“Cowpeas are the major protein source for Nigeria, which is the most populous country in Africa,” he said. The issue is, they harvest the crop in the fall, and it gets infested by weevils. They can lose half of the harvest.”

Prices are lowest for the crop at the time of harvest. In the springtime, prices are much higher — as much as three times higher — but if the crop has not been stored properly, farmers can’t get those higher prices.

The Purdue team — Maria Restrepo of Pike County, Adrienne Held of Warrick County, Jeremy Weber of Franklin County, and Horan — will be participating at what is being billed as a “train the trainer” series of seminars. They’ll go to a location and work with members of the Nigerian agriculture ministry. They’ll teach them so they can teach farmers how to save their crops.

The solution is referred to as Purdue Improved Cowpea Storage (PICS). According to an explanation on the Purdue Web site, PICS consists of a series of hermetically sealed bags; weevils become inactive in the bags, unable to feed or reproduce. In a nation where most people live on less than $2 a day, the bags estimated to provide a farmer an additional $150 a year in income.

“What was needed was a long-range plan that was economically viable and environmentally friendly,” Horan said in a recent interview. “People can adapt to this technology.”

The trip is being put together by the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture. Each of the Purdue Extension educators will be on a team; a representative of IITA, Onu Anyebe, and a representative of the Nigerian agriculture ministry, Mrs. R. H. Adedayo, will form a team with Horan. Their team will visit five states in western and northern Nigeria.

Horan got linked up to the group when he answered a posting asking for volunteers. Horan is a veteran of
the Peace Corps and was willing to go overseas again. He’s looking forward to the adventure.

“Every time you go through an experience like this, it gives you a perspective of how we fit into the world,” he said.

(The News-Banner, July 9, 2009, pp. 1-2)

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