Farmers more than double cassava yields
Nigerian farmers have more than doubled the yield of cassava, thanks to the Unleashing the Power of Cassava in Africa (UPoCA) project that is being implemented by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture.
Farmers in Ido community—in the southern state of Oyo—say yields rose from an average of 10 tons per hectare to more than 20 tons per hectare.
“With local varieties, I used to harvest 10 tons per hectare but now, it is more than 20 tons per hectare,” says Bashir Adesiyan, Chairman of the local chapter of the Nigerian Cassava Growers Association.
“During the harvest period, other farmers accused me of applying juju—supernatural or magical powers—on the farm but I told them it was the improved cassava stems and training I got from IITA that has made my farm better,” he adds.
Like Adesiyan, several other farmers in the community that participated in the project have witnessed increases in cassava yield.
In 2009, the Ido community became a beneficiary of the IITA-UPoCA project which was part of the United States Agency for International Development's response to cushion the effect of the 2008 food crisis that resulted in riots in some parts of the world.
Apart from Ido in Oyo state, other states that benefited from the project were Osun, Ondo, Ekiti, Kogi, Nasarawa, and Benue states.
Farmers say the project has boosted the production of cassava with the availability of improved cassava stems, making food more secure and generating wealth.
Dr. Richardson Okechukwu, Deputy Manager for IITA-UPoCA, says the success in Ido community is a replica of what has happened to the other states where the project was implemented.
The IITA-UPoCA project's success coupled with last year's release of new improved varieties gives Nigeria a positive outlook for cassava production, a country that is the world's largest producer of cassava roots.
The increase in yield has led to calls for increased processing machines in the Ido community. The British American Tobacco Nigeria Foundation (BATNF) has responded to the call with the donation of a cassava processing center to promote the processing of the crop.
Mr. Benjamin Isola, Oribiyi 11, the Onido of Ido Land (i.e., traditional chief of the community) says, “This processing center came to us because of the intervention of IITA-UPoCA which led to increased cassava production in our community.”
“The project has also benefited individual members of this community and we are happy,” he adds.
The community leader called on the state and federal government to establish more cassava processing centers in the community.
In the meantime, IITA-UPoCA is upgrading the equipment donated to the community by the BATNF for greater efficiency.
Okechukwu says the project will give the farmers the necessary support.