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Past projects - West African Cowpea Consortium (WACC)

Project Title: “Sifting of the accessions of cowpea for resistance to Striga in Togo / Assessment of cowpea varieties resistant to Striga using farmer participatory research in Togo”

Institute: Centre de Recherche Agronomique de la Savane Sèche (CRASS/ITRA), Togo

Funding Period: February 2009 – December 2020


Summary: The ITRA/CRASS project, led by PI, Dr Béré Tchabana, ran for over 11 years. The initial phase of the project consisted of testing the local varieties for Striga resistance. They then trialled varieties from INERA, Burkina Faso and IITA, Nigeria. The Striga resistant varieties were then presented to farmers who showed a preference for KVX771-10G from INERA and and the IITA line, IT97-499-35.  These showed resistance to Striga in the three areas of the trials (Maritime, Kara and Savanes).


The ITRA / CRASS seed dissemination project began in June 2015 and ended in March 2020. KT provided support for the production and dissemination of improved cowpea seed for farmers in Togo.


Farmers viewing trials of the cowpea varieties

Project Title: “Breeding cowpea (Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.) for resistance to biotic stress for Mali’s agro-ecological zones”

Institute: Institut d’Economie Rurale (IER), Mali

Funding Period: April 2009 – December 2021


Summary: The IER project started back in 2009 under the leadership of the late Dr Mamadou Touré. Dr Sory Diallo took over as PI in 2016 and the project came to an end in 2021.

The project commenced with trials of new Striga resistant lines produced at IER. The four most popular varieties (Korobalen, Sangaraka, Djiguiya and Cinzana Telimani) were multiplied and disseminated to farmers and have now received certification. In 2016, a further five early and medium maturing Striga resistant lines (CZ06-3-1, CZ06-2-17, CZ06-1-05, CZ06-4-16 and  CZ06-1-12) were disseminated to farmers and sent for certification and release in the national and ECOWAS seed catalogues.

With KT’s funding, IER have now developed a further five early maturing (CZ16-6-56, CZ16-1-1-147, CZ16-2-1-15, CZ16-3-1-71, CZ16-1-1-91 and M’Barawa) and five medium maturing Striga resistant lines (CZ16-3-2-11, CZ16-2-2-8, CZ16-3-2-37, CZ16-3-2-48, and CZ16-3-2-42), so they could take part in advance yield trials; and an additional four early maturing (KT2-26-9, KT2-12-6 and KT1-44-4) and 3 medium maturing (KT2-23-3, KT2-23-8 and KT1-26-9) Striga resistant lines to undergo farm trials. The best performing of these lines are expected to be selected for release.

Research conducted by the Dr Sory Diallo for his PhD showed that one region (Koporo, Mopti) has a different race of Striga to the other regions of Mali, which have Race 2. Dr Diallo identified a source of resistance to Striga Race 2 (IT97KD-499-35) and SSR markers associated with that resistance. Using these markers, the resistance allele was introgressed in to two local varieties (Amary-Sho and M'Barawa) and these lines were advanced to undergo trials for their release.

The cowpea improvement lab at IER, fully powered by solar power, was funded by the Kirkhouse Trust.


Field of a new, early maturing, Striga resistant variety (Acar 1) developed by IER, Mali

Project Title: “Marker assisted and farmers’ participatory varietal selection of  multi-resistant cowpea lines (aphids, Colletotrichum and Striga) in Burkina Faso”

Institute: Institut de l’Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles (INERA), Burkina Faso

Funding Period: January 2006 – December 2020


Summary: The project was one of the first WACC projects in 2006, and came to an end in 2020. The KT-funded cowpea improvement programme in Burkina Faso was led by two PIs. Dr Jeremy Ouedraogo was the PI at the start of the project and Dr Benoit Batieno took over in 2016. Dr Jean Baptiste Tignegre also played a lead role in the project between 2012 and 2016. Four Striga resistant cowpea varieties (KVx775-33-2G, KVx771-10G, KVX442-3-25Sh and TZ1-Gourgou) were released to farmers in 2012, and are very popular.


Since then, markers for the resistance to Striga race Kp, aphid and brown blotch have been validated and four lines (KVx781-1; KVx781-2; KVx781-3; KVx782-1) with these resistances  underwent preliminary yield trials in 2020. INERA plans to release these following further yield trials.

INERA has provided molecular and pathology training for members of the WACC from Togo, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Cameroon. They have also provided molecular facilities for postgraduate and graduate students.

A large screenhouse and a controlled environment room, funded by KT, are in use. These allow the team to grow up to four plant generations per year.


Cowpea plants being screened for aphid resistance at INERA

Project Title: “Participatory selection of cowpea varieties resistant to aphid and Striga in Benin”

Institute: Université d’Abomey Calavi (UAC), Cotonou, Benin

Funding Period: January 2018 – February 2021


Summary: The UAC project began in January 2018 and KT provided financial support until February 2021. Several cowpea lines from KT-funded projects, IITA and local Benin varieties were multiplied and tested for Striga and aphid resistance in pot trials.  The best performing varieties were taken forward for field trials. The best varieties (FUAMPEA 1 and 2, Komcallé, Agbloto, Apagbaala, IT00K-126-3) were then used for participatory variety selection. Following this the lines were multiplied in preparation for dissemination.


Farmers viewing cowpea lines during seed trials at Agbangnizoun, Benin

PhD Student: Dr Nana Aïchatou Abdoulaye

Project Title: “Developing cowpea Striga resistant varieties in Niger by marker assisted backcross”

Institute: University of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

Funding Period: January 2011 – December 2015


Summary: Dr Abdoulaye began her PhD programme in 2011 and qualified for her PhD in July 2017. Striga seeds were collected in the main areas of cowpea production in Niger suggesting that there may be 2 races of Striga in Niger, one of which, race 3, is also common in Nigeria. Cowpea lines resistant to the Striga races found in Niger were identified. The best performing varieties were  IT97K-499-35, IT98K-205-8 and IT99K-573-1-1; which were suitable to use to introgress Striga resistance into the local varieties. Dr Abdoulaye also genotyped the cowpea varieties using the marker SSR1, suitable for identifying the resistance gene for Striga race 3. Crosses with local farmer preferred varieties, IT00K-1148 and IT90K-371-1-2 and the Striga resistant variety IT98K-205-8, reached the BC4F1 stage.  The molecular work took place in INERA, Burkina Faso, and Dr Abdoulaye’s Supervisor at the university was Professor Jean Didier Zongo.


Dr Abdoulaye built a tunnel for her pot trials to protect them from insects.

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