The Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC) and the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) have said that developing Nigeria’s cassava seed system would help the country transform the production of the tuber and the growing demand for the country’s N10 billion cassava seed.
In 2020, the Central Bank of Nigeria-midwifed program to develop cassava seed system on 100,000 hectares across the country created a huge demand for improved and disease-free planting materials that surpassed supply.
“Last year, the demand for certified cassava stems from cassava growers was estimated at N10 billion. Unfortunately, this opportunity was not fully taken by farmers as it was difficult to get certified stems of improved varieties,” said Alfred Dixon, director for development &delivery, IITA during a courtesy visit to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture recently in Abuja.
The courtesy visit, which was coordinated in the framework of the IITA-managed project known as the Building an Economically Sustainable Integrated Cassava Seed System, phase 2, (BASICS-II); provided opportunity for experts to draw attention of high-level decision makers to the untapped opportunity that cassava seed system offers in terms of food security, jobs and income generation among others.
Dixon noted that IITA through the BASICS-II project was already working with partners and farmers to tap the opportunity.
He explained that the project created a formal seed system for cassava that links breeder seeds with foundation seed producers and foundation seed producers to commercial seed entrepreneurs.
“The commercial seed producers will thereafter sell to the cassava root producers…and cassava root producers will subsequently process into various end products or sell surplus roots to processing industries,” he said.
“In this fashion, we will be creating jobs and income generation opportunities for young people that will serve as seed entrepreneurs and modern producers of cassava. Furthermore, the use of certified seeds will increase the national productivity of cassava,” he added.
He called on the government to support the IITA GoSeeds and NRCRI Umudike Seed—two early generation seeds companies that are imperative for sustainable seed production that will feed the demand pool for commercial seed producers.
He made a strong case for greater collaboration between FMARD and IITA and national partners – NASC and NRCRI, and called on the government to scale out the BASICS-II project model to other cassava growing States as currently the project is working in Benue, Kogi, Abia, Akwa Ibom, Oyo and Delta states.
Also speaking, Ukpabi Joseph Ukpabi, a professor and executive director, NRCRI said the collaboration with IITA had been beneficial to the country, adding that the partnership made Nigeria the largest producer of cassava.
Similarly, Philip Ojo, director general, NASC, said the collaboration with IITA especially through the BASICS-II project was helping in the certification of seeds, making Nigeria a reference point to other nations for quality seed certification and regulation.
In his response, Sabo Nanono, Minister of Agriculture while receiving the delegation at the ministry pledged the commitment of the government to support cassava seeds sector owing to its strategic importance as a food security crop and an income earner.
He called for the involvement of the private sector in the cassava value chain, adding that it would create the much-needed jobs and wealth to transform the economy.
He noted that the ministry will continue to create appropriate policy measures for successful production and distribution of cassava product to ensure availability of food and raw materials for industries.