Cowpea, Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp, is among the most important grain legumes in Africa. Its nutritional value and biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) potential coupled with a high plasticity to environmental conditions places this legume in a unique position in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) in the context of food and nutritional security. However, cowpea yield and BNF contribution to agricultural systems in this sub-continent is far behind the average global values. The inability to run effective breeding programs to timely generate and deliver high yielding, nutritious and climate smart cowpea varieties, coupled with poor crop husbandry practices has been in the forefront of the current situation. In this chapter, the main constrains and opportunities to establish and run successful and effective cowpea production and breading programs in SSA are discussed. The discussion is built around the argument that SSA can benefit from its rich collection of landraces, as well as from high-throughput methodologies to assist the screening and the development of adapted, high yielding and nutritious varieties.
Part of the book: Legume Crops