IITA-CWMP putting smiles on our faces, making life easier for us – farmers

Resource-poor farmers who are participating in the demonstration farms being organized by the IITA-led Cassava Weed Management Project (CWMP) have said that the project intervention is making life easier for them. According to them, the project is a “burden lifter.” They said they have “suffered over the years, seeking solutions to weed management in cassava farming systems.”
For farmer Fortunatus Okeke, the IITA-CWMP is perhaps the best thing to have happened to farmers in recent times.
“It was a ‘new normal’ to hand weed and face drudgery. But now, IITA has brought solutions to control weeds. We are glad for this,” he said.
Another farmer, Abu Ogundapo who is based in Abadapo village, said that the yields from the demonstration farm were unprecedented. “We have never had it so good like this,” he said, while admiring his cassava harvest.
Farmer Esther Ayangbade from Otuu village said, “This project has made cassava farming easier. I am glad to be part of this.”
Responsible for between 50 and 80 percent of yield losses in cassava farming systems, weeds rank high among the constraints to cassava production in Africa, limiting the yield of the root crop to less than 10 tons per hectare in Nigeria.
Farmers plant cassava to the extent to which they can control weeds, notes Dr Alfred Dixon, Project Leader of the IITA CWMP. For women, who contribute up to 90 percent to weeding labor, it is a “nightmare” imagining the emergence of weeds and having to clear them. In some cases, children of school age are withdrawn from schools to support weeding operations, a practice that undermines the future of this vulnerable group.
With the interventions of the IITA-CWMP using integrated weed control, farmers are heaving a sigh of relief from the ‘yoke’ of weed infestation in cassava.
The integrated weed management package comprises the use of best-bet agronomic practices plus the use of safe and environmentally friendly herbicides.
Using this approach, Prof Friday Ekeleme, Project Investigator for the IITA-CWMP, has reported that farmers are now doubling the national yield average of cassava—crossing the 20 tons per hectare mark to 32 tons per hectare in some cases.
Participating farmers in the demo farms interviewed said they were willing to adopt the weed management practices, a signpost that the intervention is relevant.

Researchers, policymakers meet in Tanzania to discuss cassava agronomy


Scientists across Africa and their colleagues in other parts of the world are meeting with policymakers in Tanzania under the auspices of the African Agronomy Initiative (ACAI) to discuss the progress made in the last two years in providing clues to the agronomy of cassava.

The meeting, holding 11-15, December, is set review the progress made by the ACAI—a project managed by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture— and plan for the year ahead.

Addressing participants at the meeting, the Permanent Secretary, Tanzanian Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, expressed optimism that the ACAI project would provide solutions to some of the problems faced by cassava farmers in Tanzania and sub-Saharan Africa.

The Permanent Secretary was represented by Dr Geophrey Kajiru, Assistant Director, Research and Development.

The Tanzanian meeting, which is taking place in Mwanza, will also include a planning workshop for the ACAI 2018 project activities in line with the implementation strategy for year 3 of the project. The meeting is thus organized for planning and setting new goals for the 2018 activities, sharing roles, and understanding the expectations of each party represented in the project.

The event is earmarked to set pace for transitioning into the validation and the onset of dissemination stage of the Decision Support Tools (DSTs).

Dr Bernard Vanlauwe, Director for Central Africa Hub with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), said ACAI would tap into new opportunities and partnerships to ensure sustainability of the project and use of the tools developed.

Through extensive research working with development partners, ACAI has developed the initial version of the decision support tools that will be showcased at the meeting. This will provide an opportunity for the partners to examine the tools and offer feedback on how the prototype DSTs can be improved. ACAI DSTs are developed based on demand and needs identified by development partners actively engaged in cassava value chain.

ACAI’s Senior Systems Agronomist, Dr Pieter Pypers said the interaction among project partners would generate concrete ideas that would be incorporated into the development of the DSTs to make them more useful and user friendly.

“The tools we have developed must meet the needs of the development partners, that is why we are planning for the partners to have a practical feel of the tools in Mwanza and share with us their expectations of the tools,” Dr Pypers added.

Project team members are making presentations on the progress of the work under their specific roles in the project. ACAI is structured in workstreams that inform the project’s critical path through research, development, to the use and dissemination of the final project tools.

Dr Geoffrey Mkamilo, the National Coordinator for Root and Tuber Crops, Agricultural Research Institute (ARI) in Tanzania said the project had made significant gains in 2017 in research especially in meeting the high demand data in ACAI.

“The trials have performed very well, especially when you look at cassava response to fertilizer in the field, we are looking to hear about updates from other project sites,” Dr Adeyemi Olojede, ACAI coordinator at the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike said.

The project has achieved significant milestones in 2017, a trend that the core team and partners will be seeking to further in the new season.

The meeting in Tanzania has more than 60 participants representing at least 21 organizations partnering with ACAI in Nigeria and Tanzania.

Cassava bread initiative can generate N255bn annually

The Association of Master Bakers and Caterers of Nigeria says the revival of the cassava bread initiative is capable of injecting about N255 billion into the country’s economy every year.
Mr Joseph Ubah, the Publicity Secretary of the association, said this on Thursday in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.
He said that initiative, which involved the use of composite flour containing 10 per cent cassava flour, for baking bread, would discourage exportation of wheat and promote cassava production in the country.
Ubah, who bemoaned the perceptible inconsistency as to the continuation of some government policies, said that large consignments of wheat were still being imported into the country.
He said that if the initiative was revived, the money for wheat importation would be saved and used to fund national development projects or tackle some pressing issues in the country
Ubah stressed that the revival of the cassava bread initiative would boost the economy and encourage cassava farmers to improve their production.
“We have been able to reach a point where a consumer would not be able to differentiate between bread baked with cassava flour and the one baked with only wheat flour, but that programme was later jettisoned.
“If we must progress in this country, there must be continuity in our policies.
“Nigeria will be earning over N255 billion annually if 10 per cent cassava flour is included in bread; Nigerian bakers are even capable of increasing the percentage of cassava flour in bread to 20 per cent.
“Then, we will be talking of generating about N450 billion annually, which will be added to our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) if this initiative is revived,’’ he said.
Ubah noted that that the price of wheat was currently high, adding that the addition of cassava flour to the wheat flour would reduce the cost of flour production and bread production by extension.
He, therefore, urged the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to revive the cassava bread initiative in order to put bakers back in business.