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Grooming cassava entrepreneurs

NEWSMAN, Abuja – cassava industry is growing tremendously as a result of increased usage and processing into various products.

Processed cassava is used in some industries, some of which include food, ethanol, paper and cardboard, textiles, pharmaceutical, glues and adhesives.

According to Cassava Processing Market: Global Industry Trends, Share, Size, Growth, Opportunity and Forecast 2019-2024 report, published by Research and Markets.com, the food industry accounts for around a half of the total global cassava consumption followed by feed industry.

Region-wise, the report said Nigeria is the world’s leading producer of cassava accounting for around a fifth of the world’s cassava production followed by Thailand, Indonesia, Brazil, Ghana, and Congo.

Organisations are encouraging more Nigerians to go into cassava farming and processing. One of such organisations is HarvestPlus Nigeria. The Country Manager, HarvestPlus Nigeria, Dr. Paul Ilona, said farmers could make more money from the sale of cassava stem, if properly cultivated and harnessed, THE NATION reported.

He said cassava stem business in Nigeria was estimated at over N20 billion yearly, since the country cultivates an average of seven million hectares of cassava, there is still room for expansion to end the importation of cassava and its byproducts.

“In Nigeria, a hectare of cassava farm requires a bundle of 60 cassava stems to cultivate and when multiplied by seven million hectares of cassava farm annually, that gives us 420 million bundles.

“A bundle of 60 stems of one meter-long each sells at N500. Since we plant seven million hectares for cassava annually, in monetary terms, 420 million bundles multiplied by N500, which translates to N20 billion annually.

“The cassava sector is a very profitable sector, from the stem, to the tuber and to the processed food, even to those who distribute the products.

“Farmers will make more revenue from the casava stem if properly cultivated and harnessed”, he said.

Ilona revealed that some investors had become major aggregators in the cassava seed sector (stem) and urged more farmers to look into it to enhance their revenue.  HarvestPlus is not alone in the campaign.

The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) is also involved.

Under a programme, Building and Economically Sustainable, Integrated Cassava Seed System (BASICS), the organisation has demonstrated that the cassava seeds system could be profitable for the players involved across the value chain.

The Project Director, Hemant Nitturkar, said BASICS has been changing Nigeria’s cassava seed sector and creating seed entrepreneurs for the past decade.

“In past five years, BASICS has created a viable and sustainable cassava seed system in Nigeria, opening a vista of opportunities for seed entrepreneurs and cassava farmers looking for new and improved varieties for cultivation,” he said.

Nitturkar said the project was able to link breeders and researchers, who developed improved cassava varieties and technologies; with farmers and processors who benefited from high-quality planting materials.

The BASICS project has created over 150 community-based seed entrepreneurs, who are running viable cassava stem businesses in states like Benue, Cross River, Abia and Imo.

He said It had also facilitated the establishment of two seed companies, namely IITA GoSeed located on the IITA campus in Ibadan and Umudike Seed at National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) in Umudike, Abia. 

Last week, BASICS-II enlisted 45 farmers in Kogi State as cassava seed entrepreneurs (CSEs). The CSEs were drawn from across the state after a thorough screening process by the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the BASICS-II partner leading the development of CSEs in Nigeria.

According to him, the plan is to help Kogi State boost its seed demand for cassava production, create a new stream of business opportunities, improve the livelihoods of farmers and contribute to the overall food security in the country.

The coming on board of the new cassava seed entrepreneurs is expected to drive the adoption and marketing of the recently branded six released varieties and four yet-to be-released varieties.

The released varieties and their new names are as follows: IBA961632 (Farmer’s Pride), IBA980581 (Dixon), CR36-5 (Ayaya), IBA070593 (Sunshine), IBA980505 (Fine face) and TME 419. The yet-to-be-released (pre-release) varieties and their new names are TMS13F1160P0004 (Game Changer), TMS13F1343P0022 (Obasanjo-2), NR130124 (Hope) and TMEB693 (Poundable). Under good agronomic practices, these varieties yield more than 20 tonnes per hectare (ha) as opposed to the current national average of nine tonnes per ha, he added.

Kogi State Commissioner for Agriculture, David Apeh, who was represented by the Director of Agricultural Service, Okolo Ichalla, said the development of cassava seeds system in Kogi state was a welcome development for the transformation of the state’s cassava sector.

“It all starts with the seeds. When you start with bad stems, you end with bad results. Therefore, we appreciate IITA, BASICS-II, and CRS for bringing this project to Kogi State”, he said.

BASICS-II Project Leader, Prof Lateef Sanni, re-echoed the importance of developing the cassava seed sector to catalyse the diffusion of improved varieties in Nigeria.

He noted that there was a huge opportunity in the cassava seed sector for farmers to utilise and transform their livelihoods, adding: “BASICS-II was willing to backstop farmers towards developing a sustainable cassava seed sector in Nigeria.”

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