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August 21, 2009

Cassava as ultimate crop in Africa



FROM BHADMUS KAYODE
CASSAVAVIET to follow up Daily Sun. August 21, 2009


“Information is life.Whoever is not informed will be deformed”, Paul Ilona, IITA agronomist in C: AVA. The essence of communication is to discover, realize and explore for further life opportunities and prosperity. In fact, the business of this century lays more emphasis on the use of brain more than exhaustion of body.To many actors in Nigeria’ s cassava sector, profit is the ultimate in the era of cassava revolution but its contribution to national development and the livelihood of smallholders makes the essence of profit even more socially desirable.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s funding of an Afro-global cassava project tagged Cassava: Adding Value for Africa in five African countries being executed by the Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich, Kent, United Kingdom in partnership with other organizations in each of the countries have opened new frontiers for an improved capacity for African farmers as well as due economic enhancement for the long-deprived and impoverished peasants.

Globally, the wealth of a nation is never determined by how much minority rich people can boast of, but by the standard of living and the per capita income of the citizenry. It is clear that multiplicity of cottage industries in the nooks and crannies of rural and suburban areas of the country will go a long way to determine the prospect of real growth in the long run. Agriculture remains the pillar for the sustenance of the cottage industries. In turn, such cottage industries can serve as the backbone to simultaneously sustain big industries.

Today, the green gate of global economy has cassava dwelling in its domain. It is a new and sustainable opportunity for Africa, especially, Nigeria with a large population of cassava growers blessed with rich expanse of land and with a tradition of commitment to cassava cultivation spanning several centuries. Courtesy of global circumstances and the changing face of development worldwide, the profile of cassava has catapulted from a poor man’s crop into a cash crop status.

The sustainability of demand for it in the world market has moved to a point of no returns. Many scientists, development experts, philanthropists, politicians and environmental campaigners now praise cassava as the magic crop to save Africa from poverty and food insecurity in the long run. Given that the frontier of knowledge is the Siamese Twins to the frontier of development, the place of adequate information is a position of pride; and the harbinger of profit in the world’s business environment.

Cassava: Adding Value for Africa (CAVA) Project is providing informational support and research back-up that continue to shape the future of the cassava sector by exposing farmers to the processes of achieving abundant harvest with improved cassava stems and modern method of cultivation apart from other opportunities waiting at the expanding and emerging markets, worldwide.

Given the enabling environment being created, poor cassava farmers can now contribute to solving the problems of poverty and food insecurity in Africa by improving the level of internal productivity. This will inevitably boost their incomes, enhance their livelihoods and reduce the dependence of the continent on huge food and raw materials importation. C: AVA’s work on the reduction of ignorance by providing current knowledge or unutilized information about update on the cassava revolution would contribute immensely to enhancing the ability of farmers to upgrade and achieve greater productivity or explore the emerging markets of cassava.

Despite Nigeria’s consistently inconsistent policies, Nigerians have the wherewithal to give their immense contribution to solving the World food crises. The pendulum nature of policies is instrumental to the instability being experienced within the sector and the backlash on trust and integrity in the nation’s development. The C: AVA Nigeria project team has taken the bull by the horn, tightening the noose to ensure quality cassava planting approach; improved cassava yields; and high-quality cassava-based products. The C: AVA Project’s objective is meant to support sustainable and equitable High Quality Cassava Flour, HQCF, value chains in Nigeria and other 4 African countries thereby improving the livelihood and incomes of smallholder households and stakeholders in micro, small and medium scale enterprises. This has remained on course and focused in CAVA’s more than one year of operation in Nigeria.

The C:AVA Nigeria Team is coordinated by the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, UNAAB; and it includes members from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA; the Federal College of Agriculture, Akure, FECA; Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi, FIIRO; Nigeria Institute of Food Science and Technology, NIFST; the Agricultural Development Programmes in Ogun and Ondo States, Council of Women Affairs, Ondo State, Country Women Association of Nigeria (COWAN), Justice Peace and Development Movement (JDPM), Ogun State as well as other relevant organisations.

The C: AVA Nigeria Country Manager, Prof. Lateef Sanni has announced that the processes of developing a detection methodology i.e. on how to discover High Quality Cassava Flour, HQCF in composite flour, for the benefit of the end-users have commenced. At the same time, the introduction of IITA high-yielding and disease-resistant cassava stems to farmers in Ogun and Ondo States to enable them harvest between 20 and 25 tonnes per hectare have commenced.
Even, with the old generation cassava stems, it was made clear that farmers could obtain yields of up to 11 tonnes per hectare if they prevent certain common errors in land-clearing, planting, weeding, harvesting as demonstrated by IITA expert-Paul Ilona.

The production of consistent and quality-controlled delivery of HQCF in compliance with the book of cassava standards published by IITA will continue to flourish with the C: AVA initiative. The C: AVA project is set for Nigeria to ‘inculcate the idea of using our local commodities to diversify our traditional and new products for the emerging urban demands’, borrowing from words of Prof Olaiya Oluwafemi Balogun, the Vice-Chancellor, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, UNAAB, in his welcome address on June 10, 2008 to stakeholders at the occasion of the official launching of Cassava: Adding Value for Africa.

The backward integration being canvassed by Prof Olaiya Balogun is expected by end-users to snowball into a competitively priced product for the end-users and reasonable profit for the farmers and other players in the HCQF value chain, all of which tally with the C:AVA position as reflected in the presentation by Paul Ilona, about 1 acre should be able to produce, at least, 20 tonnes per hectare because cassava is no longer the crop that is associated with povert

To justify the present status of cassava in the world economy, Paul Ilona presented 10 varieties of improved cassava stems to the audience, some deliveries of which were recently taken by service providers for distribution to farmers in Ogun and Ondo States for planting on 500m by 500m demonstration area on their farms for the purpose of comparison of yields and future multiplication on farms.

With the latest development in the activities of C:AVA in Nigeria, it has been emphasized that farmers, today, must evolve and develop business approaches and farming must be handled as a business going by the extent of acceptance of cassava at the global market.

C: AVA, therefore, pointed out that its initiative is meant to increase yields, reduce cost by helping farmers and other stakeholders to achieve and optimize for the benefit of the nation and all.
“A farmer who does not have a business mind may not be able to deliver. Farmers should be able to look out at their future. The more a farmer is known, the better the agriculture technology that will be sold to him. More often than not, farmers produce to lose”, stated Paul Ilona with pity. Ilona reiterated that information for updating and upgrading is very vital for farmers’ success in agricultural business. “Cassava stem is endowed, colloquially. It has eyes and mouth. If cassava stem is manhandled, it may signal the beginning of loss in that agricultural business endeavour”, says Paul Illona. C: AVA Nigeria cautioned with pride that even its expatriate counterparts promote the nation as the country with the best locally fabricated cassava processing plants in sub-Saharan Africa.

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