Mr Atayi Babs, West Africa Coordinator of the Pan-African Media Alliance for Climate Change, has described cassava as a potential goldmine that can turnaround Nigeria’s economic fortune.
Speaking in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja on Wednesday, Babs said the by-products of the cassava value-chain were assets in wealth creation.
He advised that it was high time Nigeria and other African countries began to work assiduously to stimulate cassava production and boost its value-chain for the benefit of farmers.
Babs said that the African Development Bank (AfDB) in conjunction with the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB) and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) were collaborating to hold Nigeria’s first Cassava Investment Forum.
He said that the forum, scheduled to hold in Abuja from July 18 to July 19 would focus on an initiative known as Technologies for African Agriculture Transformation (TAAT).
According to him, TAAT is part of AfDB’s Feed Africa strategy, aimed at harnessing scientific research and technologies.
“A staple to about 350 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, cassava has been declared poverty fighter by African heads of state in 2003.
“However, the crop is yet to prove its mettle as millions of growers in sub Saharan Africa who depend on the crop for their livelihoods are still below the poverty line.
“Some of the reasons behind the poor performance of cassava and indeed, several other crops is poor productivity, low value addition, inability of farmers to access improved varieties and market.
“Consequently, Africa’s cassava productivity per hectare is less than 10 tons, compared to Asia where productivity is more than 20 tons per hectare,” he said.
Babs also highlighted efforts being made by IITA to help to address the challenges in cassava production.
“To address these shortcomings in Nigeria, the ‘Cassava Compact’, led by IITA, which is present in 18 African countries, has established demonstration farms across three agro-ecologies–guinea savannah, derived savannah and humid forest.
“This is based on technology toolkits that combine improved varieties, correct tillage, optimum plant density, fertilisation and integrated weed control measures that guarantee farmers more than 20 tons per hectare harvest.
“The agro-ecologies where the demonstrations are being implemented in Nigeria cover North-Central, South East and South Western Nigeria with more than 200 extension agents trained on good agricultural practices in 2018.
“With extension agent-farmer ratio of 1:3000, the 200 extension agents will reach at least 600,000 farmers with knowledge and information on cassava.
“In addition to these, the TAAT Cassava compact has established several platform partnerships with leading institutions and groups with a view to upscaling proven cassava technologies across Nigeria.
“One of these is FUNAAB, which is partnering with AfDB and IITA to hold the cassava investment forum.”
According to Babs, other stakeholders to feature at the forum include major buyers of cassava–fresh, chips, flour, starch as wells as major processors of cassava, cassava users, off-takers and suppliers.
Edited by Silas Nwoha
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