For this 2022 planting season, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) says cassava farmers are being encouraged to access and benefit from improved cassava planting materials.
According to the Institute, experts from the Building an Economically Sustainable Integrated Cassava Seed System, Phase 2 (BASICS-II) are sharing insights encouraging cassava farmers to access and benefit from improved cassava planting materials for this year’s planting season.
They highlighted these during a recent webinar for experts and farmers, organized with the GIZ Green Innovation Centres for the Agriculture and Food Sector (GIAE) and IITA Cassava and Maize Value Chain Project.
More than 200 participants attended the event, which was a deliberate effort to create demand and show cassava farmers where and how to access clean and quality cassava stems of improved varieties.
In his opening address, Project Manager of BASICS-II, Prof Lateef Sanni, said the webinar was an opportunity to ensure sustainability in distributing clean and quality seeds of improved varieties ahead of the new planting season.
Vegetative Seed Specialist with IITA GoSeed, Mercy Diebiru-Ojo, spoke on the benefits of using new and improved varieties. According to her, the new varieties were high yielding, tolerant of environmental stress, and resistant to pests and diseases.
“We have seen most improved varieties yield more than 30 tons per hectare, against the less than 10 tons farmers usually get from the old local varieties’’, she said.
Diebiru-Ojo continued, “the improved cassava varieties are also disease-free, suitable for various agroecological zones, and have high starch content, which industries require. Processors also look for some of these varieties because they have fantastic food qualities.”
She explained IITA GoSeed’s role in making the seeds available, noting that the company was using the Semi-Autotrophic Hydroponics (SAH) technology to speed up the multiplication process so that farmers could have access to the varieties they wanted.
Umudike Seeds General Manager ThankGod Nzenwa noted that their company, an early generation seed company like IITA GoSeed, was entirely on the ground to make improved varieties available to farmers in the South East, South-South, and other parts of Nigeria. He said that Umudike Seeds also has an entrepreneurship program for interested seed producers.
BASICS-II Advocacy, Promotion and Outreach Lead Godwin Atser, who is also the GIZ-GIAE/IITA Cassava and Maize Project Manager, said that the project developed an approach called the BASICS model to deliver improved varieties to farmers in an economically sustainable manner.
Atser noted: “The BASICS model links the cassava breeding programs with Early Generation Seed Companies that multiply breeder and foundation seeds and pass them on to cassava seed entrepreneurs to produce certified seeds for onward dissemination to farmers.
‘’Through this model, we are able to increase cassava productivity, create new jobs and enterprises, promote quality and disease-free seeds, increase the rate at which new varieties are multiplied, and create avenues for feedback from farmers.”
Observing that some farmers still hold on tightly to local cassava varieties, Dr Kwesi Atta-Krah, Emeritus Director of Country and Regional Engagement at IITA, urged farmers to embrace the use of improved varieties. He described improved varieties as “’Local varieties’ that have ‘stuff built into them’ to enhance their performance in the field. That is why they are called improved varieties.”
Farmers who attended the webinar learned about some of the new and improved cassava varieties available and their unique qualities. A link was provided for farmers to place their orders for cassava stems in advance.
Requestors would also be linked to sources of certified, disease-free cassava stems of improved varieties nearest to them. Atser explained that IITA GoSeed in Ibadan and Umudike Seeds in Abia State have facilitated the establishment of several Foundation and Commercial Seed Producers across Nigeria.