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Nigerian farmers to get improved cassava planting materials

By Godwin Atser
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Farmers in seven states of Nigeria including Oyo, Osun, Ondo, Ekiti, Kogi, Nasarawa, and Benue will benefit from the distribution of free improved cassava varieties, thanks to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded project.

The distribution of the varieties is part of activities lined up for 2010 by researchers at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture Ibadan who are implementing the Unleashing the Power of Cassava in Africa project (UPoCA) that is funded by USAID in seven countries namely Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Tanzania, Malawi, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Mozambique.

“The aim of the project in Nigeria is to empower 75,000 farms with improved varieties by the end of 2010. We also expect cassava yield in these areas to increase by 30 per cent,” said Richardson Okechukwu, IITA-UPoCA Deputy Project Manager who is also the Nigeria Country Coordinator.

“The project will thereafter ensure food security for Nigerians and neighboring northern countries like Niger and Chad, and will also provide more roots for the large-scale cassava industries,” he added.

Although increasing cassava production is one important aspect of the project, researchers are also pushing improved processing and utilization technologies to create more markets for the crop.

Consequently, between 23 February and 3 March 2010, the IITA-UPoCA project conducted two Training of Trainers (TOT) courses for farmers, processors, Women in Agriculture of Agricultural Development Programs (ADPs), non-governmental organizations, and other private business firms on cassava processing and utilization; and products packaging and labeling.

During the processing course, participants were trained on how to process 21 products including gari, soy fortified gari, starch, tapioca granules, soy milk, high quality cassava flour (HQCF), 10 per cent HQCF composite bread, cassava chin-chin, cassava meat ball, cassava root fritters, cassava croquettes, cassava cocktail tidbits, cassava flour doughnuts, cassava egg rolls, cassava cookies, cassava queen cakes, cassava strips, odorless fufu, kpokpo gari, yellow gari and cassava meat pie. They were also exposed to processing equipment such as motorized cassava graters and double screw press developed by IITA. The Product packaging and labeling course also exposed participants to the functions of packaging and communication among others.