The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) on Tuesday, October 6, 2020 in Abuja signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Nigeria Cassava Growers Association (NCGA) for the second phase of BASICS-II project to improve seeds of cassava varieties.
The Building of Economically Sustainable and Integrated Cassava Seed System (BASICS-II) was awarded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to IITA in May 2020 to transform the cassava seed sector.
During the signing of the MoU, the Director-General, IITA, Dr Nteranya Sanginga, said that the project would midwife a new role for cassava seed producers and root farmers in Nigeria.
Represented by Dr Gbassey Tarawali, officer in charge of IITA Abuja, Sanginga said that the project would provide another opportunity to develop commercial sustainable model for cassava seed system in the country.
According to him, the project gives another opportunity to address one of the major problems that has limited the power of cassava in Africa in terms of poverty reduction and livelihood improvement among growers.
“We are sealing an alliance by all actors to ensure facilitation and supply of quality certified and disease-free seeds to farmers to help Nigerian smallholders improve their productivity and family income.
“Our vision is to see that at the end of this project, we have a commercially sustainable model for cassava seed system that can be replicated in other parts of Africa.
“Therefore, our model must increase not only farmers’ income but also roots for processors and the industry who will in turn contribute to the socio-economic development of our communities,’’ Sanginga said.
On his part, Mr Segun Adewumi, President, Nigeria Cassava Growers Association, said that the MoU would enable the regeneration of various varieties of cassava and ensure more yields and better quality of products.
“We are really excited as we look forward to the cassava revolution that will enable our cassava industrial derivatives compete favourably in the domestic and international market.
“With this development, many of the utility industrial items like ethanol, industrial starch, sweetener and others for which we spend hundreds of billions of Naira to import can be produced in Nigeria.
“Incidentally these products are raw materials to other essential utility items with limitless market potential; this is to say cassava can trigger industrial revolution in Nigeria,’’ Adewumi said.
Mr Chinedu Ogbonnaya, Head of Cassava Team, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), reiterated the apex bank’s commitment to support farmers’ access to certified seeds.
Ogbonnaya said the bank supported cassava production in Nigeria with N25 billion in 2020.
He promised that the bank would strengthen partnership with other stakeholders to create a community of seed entrepreneurs across the cassava value chain.
Mr Francis Chia of Benue State Seed Producers Cooperative Union said that the MoU would enable increased production of certified seeds for sale to cassava growers
The BASIC-II project consists of six components mainly ensuring integration of breeding and seed system activities, development of early generation seed enterprises and development of commercial seed entrepreneurs.
Others are development of the processor-associated seed system model, quality control and disease management and catalysing scaling and replication through partners.
By Ikenna Uwadileke