The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) says it has developed more than 40 improved cassava varieties in the last 45 years, a statement signed by the IITA Communication Officer, Mr Godwin Atser, said that the institute and its partners developed the cassava varieties.
``In the last 45 years, IITA, working with national partners, have developed more than 40 improved cassava varieties with potential yield ranging from 20 tonnes to 40 tonnes per hectare as opposed to traditional varieties that give farmers less than 10 tonnes per hectare.’’
It added that the improved varieties were made available to farmers across the country, including Benue State which received improved planting materials last year.
``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 tonnes in six years, making Nigeria the largest producer of cassava,'' the statement read in part.
It explained that the dissemination of the improved varieties was part the Federal Government efforts under the Agricultural Transformation Agenda, to boost cassava production and the income of farmers.
The statement quoted Dr Richardson Okechukwu, the scientist who coordinates cassava transformation activities at IITA, as saying that the deployment of the varieties would help the country 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,” Okechukwu added.
It also quoted Dr Kenton Dashiell, IITA Deputy Director-General for Partnerships and Capacity Development, as saying that the institute 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,” Dashiell said, adding that farmers were key stakeholders in the cassava transformation programme of the government, and that IITA recognised them in its research agenda.
The statement noted that farmers in the country, especially those in Benue State, which it described as ``home to cassava production’’, had commended the institute and the Federal Government for giving them improved cassava planting materials.
According to the statement, farmers are anticipating good yield from cassava this year with the availability of improved planting materials.
Reacting to the development, the Ochi Otukpo, His Royal Highness, Dr John Eimonye, commended IITA and the Federal Government for initiating the programme, saying ``with these improved varieties, we are hopeful of improved yield’’.
Another farmer, Mr Boniface Eyimoga, who cultivated 15 hectres of cassava with improved varieties, noted that the programme was already making a positive impact.
``As soon as we cultivated cassava, several people in the community joined.
``There is a kind of positive influence that the programme is having on cassava growing areas.
``More people are seeing the potential in cassava and they want to be part of it,” Eyimoga said.
He added that the initiative 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,” Eyimoga said.
Wednesday, Dec 11th
Last update06:20:39 PM GMT