Cassava: IITA to engage over 100,000 Nigerians and Tanzanians to improve yields in Africa – Director
By; Bayo Akamo, Ibadan.
The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) with funding support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is to engage over 100,000 Nigerians and Tanzanians to improve cassava yields under the African Cassava Agronomy Initiative (ACAI).
IITA Director for Central Africa, Dr Bernard Vanlauwe who stated this in Ibadan said the gesture will specifically improve cassava yields, cassava root quality, cassava supply to the processing sector, and fertilizer sales.
Dr Vanlauwe pointed out that initiative is to among others change the fortunes of cassava farmers as well as to improve the livelihoods and incomes of cassava farmers in Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, and DR Congo by researching, and tapping into and implementing best-bet agronomic practices.
The IITA Director stressed that under the initiative, at least 30% women farmers are also to be engaged, saying, “the value of benefits from this project in Nigeria and Tanzania is projected to be over $27 million US”.
He added that, “furthermore, through engagement of households in Ghana, Uganda, and DR Congo and through extra interest generated in the products developed by the project, these figures are expected to increase for at least 150,000 households and a value created of at least $40 million US within the 5-year time frame of the project”.
“In sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), cassava productivity has marginally increased to around 10–11 tons per hectare, well below attainable yields of over 30 tons per hectare. With the need for intensifying cassava production in areas where population densities have reduced access to fallow land and with cassava roots becoming important raw material for the processing sector, this yield gap needs to be reduced”.
Speaking , the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbe, declared that the current yield of less than 15 tons per hectare makes Nigerian farmers uncompetitive in the cassava sector and that “this initiative should find a solution to the issue of low productivity”.
The Minister who spoke through Mrs Comfort Awe, said the ACAI initiative is placed within the context of intensification of cassava-based systems with a focus on the development of cassava agronomy recommendations to improve the productivity and quality of cassava roots in Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana, and Uganda, major cassava-producing countries in West and East Africa, and some spillover into East DR Congo.
IITA Director General, Dr Nteranya Sanginga in his remark maintained that agronomy would provide the key to unlocking the potential of cassava in Africa.
“If we want to increase the productivity of cassava, we must breed new varieties, improve the agronomy and value addition. I think we have done a lot in the area of breeding, what we need to do now is to capitalize on the agronomy,” he said.
Project Coordinator for ACAI, Dr Abdulai Jalloh, said “it is envisaged that through institutionalization of innovative approaches for problem-solving, the initiative will build the capacity of national partners to sustain the technology development pipeline, deliver continuous improvements in cassava agronomy technologies, as well as address new constraints”.
“The ACAI project will harness African and international expertise, and follows a demand-driven approach whereby its interventions are responding to specific agronomy-related needs by partners already actively engaged in cassava dissemination and value chain activities in the target countries.
“The vision of success of ACAI is to deliver the necessary knowledge base and tools for accessing this knowledge to cassava scaling partners and ultimately farmers in the target countries while instituting the necessary capacity and skills for national system scientists to engage in transformative cassava agronomy. The ultimate goal is to improve the productivity per unit area”