Nigerian farmers have commended the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) for giving them improved cassava planting materials.
The dissemination of the improved varieties is part of efforts by the Nigerian government under the Agricultural Transformation Agenda to boost cassava production and the incomes of farmers.
In Benue State, home to cassava production, farmers say they anticipate good yield from cassava this year, thanks to the availability of improved planting materials.
“With these improved varieties, we are hopeful of improved yield,” says Och’ Otukpo, His Royal Highness, Dr John Eimonye.
“We commend IITA and the federal government for initiating this program,” he added.
Another farmer, Mr. Boniface Eyimoga, who cultivated 15 hectares of cassava with improved varieties, noted that the program is already making positive impact.
“As soon as we cultivated cassava, several people in the community joined. There is a kind of positive influence that the program is having on cassava growing areas. More people are seeing the potential in cassava and they want to be part of it,” he explained.
He lauded the initiative, adding that it would create more opportunities for the youths and women in the communities.
“When we talk of agricultural revolution, this is one of the ways to achieve it. It is a step in the right direction,” he emphasized.
Like in Benue State, several parts of Nigeria last year received improved planting materials.
In the last 45 years, IITA working with national partners have developed more than 40 improved cassava varieties with potential yield ranging from 20 to 40 tons per hectare as opposed to traditional varieties that give farmers less than 10 tons per hectare.
Dr Richardson Okechukwu, scientist who coordinates cassava transformation activities at IITA, said the deployment of the varieties would help Nigeria to maintain its leadership position in Africa, and create wealth for farmers. It will also ensure that the demand for roots by industries does not affect food security of Nigeria.
“We are glad that farmers are getting these varieties across the country,” he added.
In the early 2000, IITA played a similar role under the Presidential Initiative on Cassava. At that time, the Institute backstopped the cassava value chain in the country, and provided farmers access to improved planting materials. These efforts pushed cassava production by 10 million tons in six years, making Nigeria the largest producer of cassava.
Dr Kenton Dashiell, IITA Deputy Director General for Partnerships and Capacity Development, said that IITA would continue to deploy its technologies to help the country maintain its lead in cassava production.
“What we are looking at in this project is to narrow the yield gap” Dr Dashiell said.
He added that farmers were key stakeholders in the cassava transformation program of the government, and that IITA recognizes them in its research agenda. ###
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