Nigeria Needs new ‘Seed System’ to cut Cassava-based Food Prices — IITA experts
Nigeria needs to adopt a “new seed system approach” to compete globally so as to keep the prices of cassava-based foods stable and affordable in the country, agriculturists at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) have said.
IITA’s digital extension and advisory specialist, Godwin Atser, in a statement on Sunday, said Lateef Sanni, the project manager of the institute’s BASICS-II project, described cassava as the engine of economic growth that Nigeria must take advantage of.
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“Countries like Brazil, China, Thailand, Vietnam, and even Cambodia are reaping “gold” from cassava. These countries do not record less than 30 tons per hectare. However, farmers in Nigeria produce less than 10 tons due to poor performing seeds,” Mr Sanni was quoted to have said during a media parley at Ibadan on Wednesday last week.
The project was launched two years ago, the project—Building an Economically Sustainable Cassava Seed Systems (BASICS I & II), is a new seed system model developed by the IITA.
It is aimed at creating “a more efficient dissemination of cassava stems that would trigger the adoption of new varieties to improve productivity; raise incomes of cassava growers and seed entrepreneurs; enhance gender equity, and contribute to inclusive agricultural transformation in Nigeria and Tanzania.
The seed system approach creates an ecosystem of seed actors, breeders, foundations, and certified seed producers which ensures that seeds of improved and virus-free cassava varieties are multiplied and disseminated to farmers through a value chain in an economically sustainable manner.
According to the statement, Mr Sanni said: “the goal of BASICS-II project is to provide farmers with access to affordable, quality-assured seeds of improved cassava varieties in demand by local food and processor markets through the establishment of a commercially viable seed value chain.”
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“We are doing this using the seed system approach called the BASICS model. We are encouraging farmers to adopt new and improved varieties to improve productivity, raise incomes of cassava growers and seed entrepreneurs, enhance gender equity, and contribute to inclusive agricultural transformation,” the project manager said.
In his remarks, Mr Atser, who is also the project’s advocacy, promotions and outreach lead, explained that improved cassava varieties are key to changing cassava production narrative in Nigeria.
“Adoption of improved varieties will increase cassava productivity, ensure food security, guarantee processors of quality raw materials, and hinder the spread of cassava crop diseases on farms,” he said.
Apart from its economic and sustainability elements, Mr Atser said the “BASICS model” had a job creation component.
“Today, we have hundreds of farmers across Nigeria and Tanzania that are engaged in cassava stem multiplication and marketing,” he explained, adding that “currently, the project has created over 400 of cassava seed entrepreneurs in Benue, Kogi, Abia, Delta, Cross River and Akwa Ibom States.”
Mr Atser said that the project had strengthened links with the National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC), the country’s seed regulating agency.
He noted that the country currently has two EGS companies – IITA GoSeed, a private company owned by IITA, and Umudike Seed, a private firm owned by the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike, Abia state.
Mercy Diebiru-Ojo, a vegetative seed specialist and IITA’s GoSeed general manager, said that the early generation seed companies were responsible for multiplying the new varieties developed by the breeders in IITA, NRCRI, NextGen Cassava and other breeding programs.
“At IITA GoSeed, we use new technologies to multiply the improved varieties and make virus–free stems available to the seed producers who will further multiply and sell to farmers,” she said.
Mrs Diebiru-Ojo said: “Our Semi Autotrophic Hydroponics (SAH) technology has helped us surmount the slow multiplication challenge we used to have in the past.”
She explained that the institute is currently multiplying virus-free cassava planting materials at a much faster rate such that within two years of release, the improved planting materials are commercially available.
Akinyemi Ibikunle, IITA’s GoSeed operations manager also stated that the business of making improved varieties available to farmers is a very lucrative venture for people who have interest in cassava seed production.